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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What’s Behind those Weird Dreams?

I want to preempt this blog post by disclosing that I am as ‘unspiritual’ as they get. When I’m stressed, it’s not because there’s a full moon, it’s because I’ve procrastinated and not left myself enough time to do something. When I get in an argument with my boyfriend, it’s not because he’s a Scorpio and I’m a Taurus, it’s because he’s clearly wrong about something!

Because of my unwavering cynicism, I have been reluctant to credit dreams with having any kind of symbolic meaning, but I have to admit that I might be wrong about this one. I was at a museum exhibition on the science behind the human mind a couple of years ago, and it had a whole section dedicated to the psychology behind dreams and sleep. I was surprised to find that I had had all but one of what they deemed the most common dreams. I had thought that my recurring dream (nightmare) about my teeth falling out was just residual paranoia from having braces as a teenager, but as it turns out, this is one of the most frequently reported dreams and has been linked to vanity, anxiety, and (according to Freud), a fear of castration.

You might be as surprised as I was to find that what you believed where your private and unique thoughts are actually shared with millions of other people. So what are these dreams, and what could they mean?

1.  Being Chased
In evolutionary terms, flee/flight is one of our most primal responses to threat. It makes sense then, that dreams about being chased have been tied to feeling threatened by someone or something in waking life. This dream has also been linked to avoiding some kind of confrontation or obligation in real life.

2.  Being Naked in Public
Dreams about being totally undressed, partially undressed, or dressed inappropriately for an occasion are all tied to feeling some kind of vulnerability. When you are without your clothes, you are without a symbolic barrier that you can hide behind. This can be attributed to feeling helpless or exposed in a real life situation that you don’t feel fully prepared for or qualified to deal with.

Obviously, these dreams are correlated with anxiety, but it is worth noting that a lot of the time, no one seems to notice your nudity. This is likely indicative of the fact that your anxieties are merely your own projections: no one else thinks you’re unprepared or unqualified!

3.  Falling/Sinking
Dreams of falling or sinking are often attributed to losing control, or lacking security, stability, or confidence. These dreams often occur when you’re feeling insecure or lacking support in your waking life.

4.  Flying
Most people who have flying dreams associate them with feelings of euphoria. If you’re flying with ease in your dream, it could mean you’re feeling on top of a situation.

If you’re flying closer to the ground or having to navigate around objects, chances are the flying dream is more similar to a falling dream and you feel like there are obstacles between yourself and your goal.

5.  Teeth Falling Out
Dreams about your teeth falling out are less easy to ‘diagnose’ and have been attributed to a number of different causes.

On a basic level, fears about losing teeth are related to a fear of being found unattractive. Interestingly, this dream is most commonly reported by women in menopause, and so it could be attributed to a fear of the change that comes with age.

On a deeper level, dreams about teeth have been tied to power and communication. Apparently, your teeth are symbolic of your words, and a dream about losing them can represent a loss of control over your words and communication in general.

6.  Car Trouble
Dreams about trouble with your car, or any vehicle can range from your brakes not working to crashing to forgetting how to drive altogether.

A recurring theme here is not being in control, or being unprepared in situations in your waking life. The fact that dreams about car trouble often occur even in people who haven’t yet learned to drive indicates that they really don’t have anything to do with your driving ability. Much like nudity dreams, they are more likely anxiety dreams related to how you prepared you feel for something in your life.

It seems that the most commonly reported dreams are related heavily to anxiety. Maybe we are more anxious than we are conscious of, or maybe the fact that they bring out our anxieties is why these dreams are the ones we remember. In any event, if you’ve had any of these dreams or any other recurring dreams (or nightmares!), let us know and we’ll try and find out what they mean!

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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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Is Coconut Oil the Newest Fad or is There Something To It?

Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you probably know that coconut oil is the new ‘must-have’ product in your home. It boasts an array of benefits which span from the bathroom to the kitchen, and it seems almost too good to be true. People have been asking me whether it’s just a fad, but it looks like coconut oil is definitely here to stay!

The truth is coconut oil has been used for thousands of years in other cultures. It is a staple in Ayurvedic medicine, the traditional medical system of India, as well as in many other traditional health practices.

We’re a couple of millennia late to the party, but it’s better late than never! Here are some of the reasons why you should invite coconut oil into your life:


It’s Great for Cooking! 

  • It’s a terrific substitute for butter or margarine because it is solid at room temperature.
  • Because of its high smoking temperature, it’s great for baking, stir frying and roasting (unlike olive oil).
  • Unlike butter, it is ideal for vegans.
  • It is extremely stable and resistant to oxidation, which lends itself to a shelf life of up to 2 years!
  • Coconut is classified as a seed or a fruit so people with tree nut allergies generally do not have to worry about allergic responses.

It Keeps You Gorgeous!

  • Dry skin from the winter?  No problem! Coconut oil works wonders as a moisturizer, and can prevent dryness and flaking of skin.
  • It is a great anti-wrinkle cream because of its antioxidant properties. Apply coconut oil directly to your skin to soften the appearance of fine lines.
  • It can be used to treat eczema, psoriasis, and dermatitis.  This is why it is often the first ingredient in soaps, creams, and lotions.
  • You can use it as massage oil, lip balm, and even to treat diaper rash!
  • It can be used as a hair mask, as it has healing and nourishing properties for dry and damaged hair. It can be heavy, so if your hair is on the thinner side just massage it lightly into the ends, and don’t forget to wash it out!
  • It is an amazing eye make-up remover.

It Helps Keep You Healthy!

  • It can help improve digestion and digestive problems including Irritable Bowel Syndrome.
  • The saturated fats in coconut oil have antimicrobial properties which can fight various bacteria, fungi, and parasites that can cause indigestion.
  • Most of the saturated fat in coconut oil is lauric acid.  This is considered a healthy
    choice as studies show that lauric acid can raise your ‘good’ cholesterol (HDL)
    and lower the ‘bad’ cholesterol (LDL).
  • Coconut oil also helps in the absorption of other nutrients such as vitamins, minerals and amino acids.
  • Coconut oil contains medium chain fatty acids (MCFAs) which are small enough to be absorbed into the cells where they’re quickly converted to energy. Through this process insulin sensitivity is improved as there is no spike in blood sugar or insulin levels.

It Might Even Keep You Skinny!

  • The short and medium-chain fatty acids (MCFAs) in coconut oil can help take off excess weight. These MCFAs are sent directly to the liver and immediately converted into energy rather than being stored as body fat.
  • Even Oprah is behind it! In September 2012 Oprah magazine cited two studies linking coconut oil to weight loss. Here are the specifics:

“A study published in the journal Lipids found that a small group of obese women who consumed two tablespoons of coconut oil a day for 12 weeks saw their waistlines shrink, while women who consumed the same amount of soybean oil experienced no such change. And one of St-Onge’s studies, published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, revealed that overweight subjects who consumed medium-chain triglycerides as part of a diet program lost more weight and more abdominal fat than subjects who consumed olive oil.”

 Coconut Oil: Not Just a Fad!

I only keep two oils in my home; olive oil for salad dressings and low heating,
and coconut oil for everything else.

If you decide to purchase coconut oil, make sure it’s labeled virgin or extra virgin as they are produced from the first pressing of fresh, raw coconut without adding any chemicals.

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Why the Menopause Taboo?

For one reason or another, menopause is something that we just don’t talk about. It’s not like women go around waving tampons in the air when they have their periods, but it does seem that in general, we are more open to talking about the trials and tribulations of menstruation than the lack thereof.

The reasons we don’t talk about menopause could be attributed to a number of things. It could be that for years, menopause has been treated as a ‘disease,’ and has developed a kind of stigma that prevents us from seeing it as normal and natural. Most people aren’t too keen on publicly acknowledging the list of things that are wrong with
them. Or it could be that our culture is so obsessed with youth that women going through menopause feel a loss of self- worth. Or it could be as simple as the fact that menopause is accompanied by hot flashes, sleep disturbances, and mood swings, and we just don’t want to talk about it… because what’s worse than being in a bad mood and being prodded at and coerced into discussing it?

Because menopause is a time in a woman’s life when she undergoes a number of physical, emotional, and lifestyle changes, she requires support, understanding, and sympathy from those around her. The problem with this is that if a woman doesn’t acknowledge or discuss these changes, how is she supposed to elicit these kinds of responses?

I was listening to a radio show this morning, and a woman wrote in anonymously with a question about menopause. She said, in short, that she was more comfortable emailing the radio team than discussing the issue with her friends. If you’re reading this and find her situation strange, you might be surprised to learn that (even in 2014) most women don’t talk about menopause. This doesn’t make a whole lot of sense when you think about it, because as women, the one thing that we inevitably have in common is the future, current, or past experience of menopause. As our life expectancy increases, so too does the amount of time we spend on the other side of menopause, and so it is not at all an indication that life is over, and for many women is actually quite the contrary!

I’ve been doing a fair amount of reading about menopause lately, and in doing so stumbled across a website by a woman named Ellen Dolgen, who is a ‘menopause guru’ of sorts. Ellen has coined the term ‘Menopause Mondays’ to describe support groups for women going through menopause. These groups provide an opportunity for women to discuss their symptoms and questions with other women going through similar experiences without judgment. Women can swap notes, stories, and remedies to help get those symptoms under control, and if not, at least laugh about them for an hour over a glass of wine!

We need a reminder in between the hot flashes and bad moods that it is menopause (not jeans) that is the great equalizer, and that starts with a conversation. If you have a funny menopause story to share (we call them menomoments), please post it in a comment here or on Facebook and help us open the dialogue!




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