About Sherry Torkos

Sherry Torkos is a pharmacist, author, certified fitness instructor, and health enthusiast who enjoys sharing her passion with others. Sherry graduated with honors from the Philadelphia College of Pharmacy and Science in 1992. Since that time she has been practicing holistic pharmacy in the Niagara area. Her philosophy of practice is to integrate conventional and complementary therapies to optimize health and prevent disease. Sherry has won several national pharmacy awards for providing excellence in patient care. As a leading health expert, Sherry has delivered hundreds of lectures to medical professionals and the public. She is frequently interviewed on radio and TV talk shows throughout North America and abroad. Sherry has authored fourteen books & booklets, including The Glycemic Index Made Simple and Breaking the Age Barrier. Her most recent book, The Canadian Encyclopedia of Natural Medicine has become a national best-seller. For more information, visit: www.sherrytorkos.com

Multivitamins: Who Needs Them?

A recent editorial that appeared in the Annals of Internal Medicine entitled, “Enough is Enough: Stop Wasting Money on Vitamin and Mineral Supplements,” grabbed a lot of media headlines and left many people wondering if they should toss out their vitamin supplements.

Unfortunately, this editorial was misleading; and the conclusions of the studies were misreported not only by the editorial, but also by the various media sources that covered the story.

These studies failed to consider several important and relevant factors, and so we shouldn’t be so quick to get rid of the multivitamins that can play a very important role in supporting good health.

What is important to look at here are the facts presented in the three studies which were the basis for this editorial.

The three studies looked at the effects of multivitamins on preventing both heart attacks and cancer, and improving cognitive function in men older than 65. Here is a synopsis of the actual findings of these studies:

  1. The study by Fortmann, et al., was a meta-analysis or review of clinical studies that looked at the benefits and harms of vitamins and minerals in nutrient-sufficient adults for the primary prevention of cardiovascular disease and cancer. Worth noting is that two of the studies included in this review actually found a reduced risk of cancer in men, and the authors acknowledge limitations that their analysis only included primary prevention studies in adults without known nutritional deficiencies and that the studies were conducted in older individuals.
  2. The second study by Lamas, et al., looked at 1,700 people who previously had heart attacks. Almost half of the participants stopped taking the multi-vitamin during the study making the findings very difficult to interpret. Even with a high drop-out rate, those participants who continued taking multi-vitamins had a trend of reduced heart attacks.
  3. The third study by Grodstein, et al., involved 5947 male doctors over the age of 65 and found no difference in mean cognitive change over time between the multivitamin and placebo groups. The authors of this study actually state limitations: the doses of vitamins may be too low or the population too well nourished to benefit from a multivitamin. After all, this group included male doctors, a traditionally affluent group at very low risk of inadequate nutritional intake).

It is important to note that these studies did not evaluate the benefits of multivitamins for women and men who are younger, vitamins for vegetarian women and men, people with nutritional deficiencies or poor dietary intake, or those with health conditions that can compromise nutrient status such as celiac disease, Crohn’s disease, colitis, or other chronic diseases. They also did not take into consideration lifestyle factors that can affect nutrient levels such as stress, exercise or consumption of fast/processed food or use of prescription drugs that can deplete nutrients in the body such as oral contraceptives, diuretics, statins or blood pressure medications.

The reality is that many Canadians suffer from nutritional deficiencies due to inadequate or inappropriate intake from food. According to a recent report by Health Canada, many adults have inadequate intakes of magnesium, calcium, vitamin A and vitamin D.

Multivitamins and other supplements are not intended to replace the need for a proper diet. Rather they can complement the diet, help prevent nutrient deficiencies and play a role in optimizing good health for women and men, and preventing disease.

A multivitamin should be considered as the foundation of your supplement regimen. It can help to fill in gaps from your diet and compensate for the many factors that deplete nutrients in our bodies.

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The ABCs of Getting ZZZ

If you have difficulty falling asleep or staying asleep, wake too early or feel tired, groggy and have difficulty concentrating during the day, you could have a sleep disorder, such as insomnia.

According to recent reports one-third of adults suffer occasionally from insomnia and 14 percent experience chronic insomnia.

Sleep is absolutely vital for good health. It is a fundamental need for survival, just like food and water. Yet it is often compromised to accommodate a busy schedule.

There are many misconceptions surrounding sleep. Contrary to common belief, if you miss sleep during the week you can’t catch up on the weekend. And if you think that sleep is just a passive state you may be surprised to know that during sleep our bodies
are actually producing hormones and working on important elements for repair and regeneration.

The consequences of poor or inadequate sleep go well beyond just feeling tired during the day. Getting less than six hours sleep is now associated with many serious health problems such as heart disease, depression, weakened immune function, headaches, memory loss and even low libido and weight gain.

Aside from a busy life, many factors can hamper our ability to get a good night’s rest, including stress, hormonal imbalances (such as menopause), use of alcohol or caffeine, side effects of drugs, working shift work, and more.

As a quick fix approach many turn to prescription sleeping pills. In fact, the use of these drugs in our sleepless society has almost doubled over the past decade. While these drugs may help put you to sleep, they do not provide a long-term solution and they are associated with several side effects including loss of short-term memory, next day drowsiness and sleepwalking. When used chronically, they become less effective, can result in dependency and can actually worsen sleep quality.

To sleep better without the risks of sleeping pills, try a few simple lifestyle changes. Here are some A, B, Cs to have better quality Zs:

A – Allow
Allow adequate time for sleep and make sleep a priority each day. Experts recommend
7-8 hours for adults.

B – Bedtime
Bedtime routines help develop good sleep hygiene. Try going to bed around the same time each evening. Do relaxing activities at night such as reading, stretching or meditation. This will help to signal your brain that it’s time to sleep. Avoid alcohol, caffeine and sugar in the evening; these are common sleep disrupters.

C – Consider
Consider a supplement. Sleep supplements  can help to reduce stress and promote relaxation and improve sleep quality. Try femMED’s Sleep formula.

D – Darkness
Darkness can help by promoting your body’s production of melatonin, a hormone that regulates our sleep and wake cycles. Make your room dark by using light blocking shades. Keep electronics such as cell phones and computers out of your bedroom.

If you are struggling with persistent problems sleeping, despite making lifestyle adjustments, consult with your doctor for a proper assessment.

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Tips for Reducing Your Risk of Heart Disease

Heart disease is considered to be largely preventable. Below are 10 simple tips for reducing your risk of heart disease:

1.Take 10,000 steps a day. Use a pedometer and gradually increase the number of steps you take each day. Exercise fights heart disease in numerous ways: it lowers blood pressure and cholesterol, improves circulation, reduces stress and strengthens the heart.

2. Get another hour sleep. A recent Sleep in America poll reported that less than half of adults are getting adequate sleep (7-8hrs). Lack so sleep can raise blood pressure, trigger inflammation, and promote atherosclerosis. Getting 6 hours of sleep or less per night has been found to increase risk of heart disease in women, independent of other risk factors (such as smoking).

3. Eat more fish and garlic and drink green tea. These foods contain various compounds that support heart health. The omega-3 fatty acids in fish can help reduce triglycerides and inflammation and prevent clotting. Garlic and green tea contain powerful antioxidants that can improve several aspects of heart health. Consider supplements of garlic and fish oil to complement your diet.

4. Choose whole grains over refined products. Studies show that highly refined carbohydrates that have a high glycemic index, such as white bread, are worse for your heart than foods high in saturated fat, like red meat and butter. Whole grains contain more fiber and are digested more slowly. Try oatmeal and chia seed for breakfast; soluble fiber in oats and chia can help lower cholesterol levels and support weight management. Swap potato chips in favour of tortilla chips. Tortilla chips have more fibre and less fat and if you choose ones that are fortified with extra fiber (flax, chia, bean flour), they can actually help lower your LDL cholesterol. Dip your tortilla chips in fresh salsa. The lycopene in tomatoes can help lower blood pressure.

5. Eat more brightly coloured vegetables and fruits. The antioxidants, vitamins, minerals and fibre can support the health of your blood vessels, improve circulation, help reduce cholesterol and reduce free radical damage. Canada’s food guide recommends 7-10 servings for adults (based on age and gender) yet according to a recent survey by Statistics Canada only 40% of Canadians are consuming five or more servings daily. If your diet falls short, take a multivitamin/mineral complex to ensure you are getting all essential nutrients.

6. Make better fat choices. Cook with palm fruit oil rather than olive oil. Olive oil is great to use in salad dressings or add to foods after it is cooked, but it is not heat stable and its beneficial properties are lost when it is heated to high temperatures. Palm fruit oil is heat stable and contains potent antioxidants called tocotrienols that are good for the heart and the brain. NIH-funded research show tocotrienols found in palm fruit oil may reduce damaging effects of stroke and it can have a positive effect on cholesterol levels. Tocotrienols from palm fruit oil are also available in supplement form.

(A note from femMED: when buying palm oil, make sure you check the label to make sure that it is sustainably farmed).

7. Stress less. Stress is a powerful risk factor for heart disease. Stress impacts several risk factors for heart disease: it raises blood pressure and cholesterol, triggers inflammation and promotes blood clots. Stress can also hamper immune function, and cause insomnia, headaches and weight gain. To better manage stress, try deep breathing, meditation, yoga and get regular exercise.

8. Laugh more and be optimistic. Laughing relaxes and expands blood vessels, which helps protect the heart. Research conducted in over 97,000 women has found that optimists have lower rates of heart disease than those who are negative and pessimistic. Negative emotions such as anger, hostility, worry and pessimism are associated with increased risk of heart disease, whereas the opposite trails are protective.

9. Floss your teeth daily. Poor oral hygiene not only affects your breath and appearance but it can lead to bone loss and increased risk of heart disease. Brush after meals and floss daily. This only takes a few minutes and is vital for your health. If you are out and can’t brush, use a toothpick to loosen food stuck between teeth and rinse your mouth with water or mouthwash. Chew sugarless gum sweetened with xylitol.

10. See you doctor and know your numbers. There are often no obvious symptoms of high cholesterol or elevated blood pressure until the conditions are advanced, and so it is important to keep on top of the heart disease symptoms in women. Delaying treatment can increase your risk of serious consequences. Have a regular check-up with your doctor and discuss your results. Know your blood pressure, cholesterol and blood sugar numbers. Keep a health record at home.

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What You’ve Heard about Heart Disease: What’s Fact and What’s Fiction?

February is National Heart Health Month so this is the perfect time to talk about what women can do to protect themselves against their number one health threat. That’s right…heart disease is the leading cause of death in women in North America.  One in three women in their lifetime will develop heart disease, but sadly the odds are approaching one in two. Every minute a woman dies of heart disease. This could be you, your mother, your sister, or your friend. Cardiovascular disease in women has been understudied, under-diagnosed and largely ignored by both women and their doctors. There are many myths and misconceptions that prevail about heart disease in women. Here are just a few:

Heart disease is only an issue for elderly women.
Fact: While heart disease is the chief killer of women over the age of 65, it is also the second-leading cause of death in women ages 45 to 64 and the third-leading cause of death in women 25 to 44.

Myth: Women are more likely to survive a heart attack than men.
Fact: Women are twice as likely as men to die after suffering a heart attack. The unfortunate reality is that women delay getting treatment, are treated less aggressively after a heart attack and are less likely to be given life-saving medications or referrals to


Myth: Risk factors for heart disease are the same in women as in men.
Fact: Certain conditions are more likely to cause heart disease in women than in men, such as metabolic syndrome and menopause. Stress and lack of sleep also appear more likely to damage women’s hearts.

Myth: Sex increases the risk of heart attack.
Fact: It is commonly thought that sex is a major trigger for heart attacks, yet only one percent of heart attacks are brought on by sexual activity.

Hormone replacement therapy protects against heart disease.
Fact: Menopausal women who take estrogen replacement therapy actually may be at increased risk for heart disease.

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Fighting the Flu

Looking for advice on what supplements to take this fall? Check out my segment on CH Morning Live to find out why multivitamins are so important for health, especially during the fall and winter season when we are at risk of getting sick. When choosing a supplement, look for a product designed for your age, gender and life stage. For women, I recommend femMED Multi+ Antioxidants, which provides all the key nutrients for good health in a vegetarian capsule, without dyes, chemical fillers or potential allergens. Also find out about what supplements you can take to get a better night sleep and feel great the next day.

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