Archive for November, 2010

False: Turkey = sleepy

Does your husband always come up with the excuse that he is too tired to help you with the dishes after a big thanksgiving meal?  “It’s nap time!” he exclaims.  Little does he know that the old “there is too much tryptophan in my turkey” excuse is really not an excuse at all.  The truth of the matter is turkey does not contain any more tryptophan than typical poultry, about 350 milligrams per four ounces.  What is tryptophan anyway?  Tryptophan is an essential amino acid, meaning that the body can’t manufacture it. The body has to get tryptophan and other essential amino acids from food.  How does it work?  Tryptophan helps the body produce the B-vitamin niacin, which helps the body produce serotonin, a chemical that acts as a calming agent in the brain and plays a key role in sleep.

You might think that if you eat a lot of turkey, your body would produce more serotonin and you would feel calm and want a nap. Nutritionists and other experts say that the tryptophan in turkey probably won’t trigger the body to produce more seroton­in because tryptophan works best on an empty stomach. It’s not fair to blame your poor innocent turkey for all the yawning on Thanksgiving day!

So, why are we all so tired after a big Thanksgiving meal?  First of all, big is one of the operative words.  We tend to eat a lot more at one sitting thinking we are not going eat these foods again until next year. Don’t forget the stuffing, mashed potatoes, biscuits, oh yes, and dessert.  All those carbohydrates can put anyone into a food induced coma.  Another reason could be that some of us are drinking alcohol with our meals.  There is nothing like a nice bottle of chardonnay with your turkey and alcohol tends to make us tired.  Also, many of us wake up early to get the bird in the oven and are on our feet cooking and preparing for the gathering.

Are you going to let your family know that you are on to them, or are they going to get away with the after dinner nap or sitting on the couch for the football game while you’re in the kitchen cleaning up?

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Are You Getting Enough Vitamin D This Winter?

Time to get cozy—cooler weather is here! The days are shorter, the sky is bleaker, and most of us want to stay indoors for longer periods. Bundle and snuggle!

Unfortunately, this means that you’re in danger of not getting enough vitamin D this season.

You may already know that it’s good for the bones and teeth by helping our bodies use calcium. But that’s not all—this powerful vitamin can do much more, according to studies. Vitamin D is a major focus of research these days for its other, lesser-known roles in these conditions:

  • Osteoporosis
  • Cancer (colorectal, breast, prostate)
  • Autoimmune disease (Type I diabetes, multiple sclerosis, rheumatoid arthritis)
  • High blood pressure
  • Alzheimer’s disease
  • Depression  (Consider the lack of sunlight and its role in both vitamin D deficiency and seasonal affective disorder)

While optimal doses are still to be determined, one thing is clear—the standard daily 400 IU (International Units) dose may be too low. Many scientists believe that 2000 IU daily is safe for most adults, and even that’s conservative.  Some practitioners are now recommending 800-1200 IU for most patients.

So what’s sunshine got to do with all this? Simply put, we can make our OWN vitamin D with the help of the sun and its ultraviolet B (UVB) rays!  And it doesn’t take much exposure… Approximately 15-20 minutes three times weekly has been recommended by many scientists. Go easy—face and arms, casual exposure. NO BURNING! Just enough to produce a slight pinkness in fair-skinned people (if your skin is dark, you’ll likely need more; as much as a couple of hours).

Problem is, many of us won’t get even this much exposure. During this season there’s less sunlight (and therefore UVB) to absorb. Imagine a line running from Richmond VA (east) across the United States to San Francisco CA (west). If you live above this line (37° N), you will probably not produce sufficient vitamin D from November through early March.  The further north you live, the longer the “vitamin D winter”.

Cloud cover and pollution also affect how much UVB light we receive. Those who live in foggy areas or big cities may need more vitamin D. Altitude is another factor—in a good way.  Every 1000 foot increase in elevation is roughly equivalent to one degree closer to the equator. So, if you live in Denver (the Mile High City), it’s like being 5° further south.

The elderly don’t synthesize vitamin D when exposed to UVB as readily as younger adults. (They’re more likely to stay indoors too). Dark-skinned individuals may have half the vitamin D in their blood when compared to fair-skinned people (the more melanin in the skin, the less vitamin D synthesized). And obesity has been associated with vitamin D deficiency.

So how do you get enough vitamin D during this season? Foods rich in vitamin D include salmon, mackerel, tuna, milk, and mushrooms. You might also wish to supplement. Start with a good multivitamin; your physician can test you and let you know if you need even more.

Vita Nutritionals can help too. Our multivitamin formulas (Superior Wellness for Men, Superior Wellness for Women) have 200 IU and 400 IU of vitamin D, respectively, per serving. And our bone health product (Calcium Quadraplex + Mag and D) contains 800 IU of this powerful supplement.

Until next time, stay warm. Go out if you like, stay in if you must, but make sure you get your Vitamin D!

Science for Lifesm

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You need your Zzzz’s


Many of us admittedly have too much on our plate!  Not for dinner, but in life.  I don’t remember the last time I heard somebody say, “Wow, I have a lot of free time on my hands” or “Boy, do I feel energized today”!  The truth is, I’m just plain tired.  I think we’re a nation of tired people. So, why is this worth blogging about?  Not only are most of us tired at the end of the day, we’re tired when we wake up each morning.

 True, there are a bunch of different reasons that I’m tired, but most nights I just don’t sleep well.  Sleep deprivation is a common occurrence in modern culture and in my life. Every day there seems to be twice as much to do and half as much time to complete it in. While some people may like to believe that they can train their bodies to require less sleep, you really can’t. Sleep is crucial for concentration, memory formation, and repairing and rejuvenating the cells of the body. Both mentally and physically, a good night’s sleep is essential for your health.

Sleep disorders are a very common medical issue that affects more than 70 million Americans each year. While some people suffer from mild sleeping problems, such as the occasional nightmare, others have extremely severe sleep disorders that can negatively affect their health if left untreated. In fact, 95 percent of people suffering from a sleep disorder remain undiagnosed.  You know the one’s…”I didn’t sleep well because I ate chocolate right before bed,” “I have too much on my mind,” “ I don’t remember if I washed the cub scout uniform,” “ did I pay the electric bill?”…and the list goes on!  That’s the stuff that goes through our minds in between counting sheep. 

Finding an effective remedy is difficult. Some sleep aids require a visit to your doctor, dealing with unpleasant side effects, and facing the possibility of becoming dependent on the drugs. Even over-the-counter sleep aids can be habit-forming. So, what’s the answer? Melatonin – a naturally-occurring compound that regulates sleeping cycles and also has value as a possible antioxidant.  If you are having trouble sleeping it is recommended that you take a natural sleep aid containing melatonin roughly one half hour before going to sleep. One of the frequently reported advantages of melatonin is it doesn’t leave users with a hangover like effect the next morning. Most over the counter sleep aids tend to leave you feeling a bit drowsy the morning after. There is no one right dose from person to person. It seems every person reacts differently to melatonin. For some 1.5 mg may work while another person may need to take 3 mg of melatonin before going to bed. The fact is, melatonin is helpful for falling asleep. In the Vita Nutritionals® product VN Relax, we offer 3 mg of melatonin along with 1 mg of B-6 which produces serotonin and the combination of the two ingredients in each tablet, make for a restful night. Now I just need to remember to take it! 

Here are some additional strategies that may help you catch some zzz’s a bit easier every night.

  • Go to bed at the same time or nearly the same time every night.
  • Avoid consuming alcohol or caffeine 2-3 hours before bedtime.
  • Write down your worries and to-do list on paper before going to sleep.
  • Sip some chamomile tea.
  • Avoid eating a heavy meal right before bed.
  • Read (I know that makes me sleepy)

Sleep tight, don’t let the bed begs bite…that’s a whole other topic!

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