Supplements To Optimize Health (Part 2/3): Lemon Balm, NAC, Probiotics

Food + Nutrition | Original Writing
Holy Basil Plant Growing Outdoors

Last week, I wrote the initial post in a three part series on the use of supplements to optimize health. It reviewed the benefits of Prenatal Vitamins, Active Folate and Omega 3 Fatty Acids in pregnancy and beyond.

Today I’m going to cover three favorite supplements including Lemon Balm, which has been used medicinally for over 2000 years, N-Aceytl Cysteine (NAC), which is a natural mood stabilizer, and Probiotics, which effect general health through the gut/body axis.

The final article wraps up with Vitamin D, of which 40-60% of the US population are deficient, Magnesium Glycinate, which helps the 80% of deficient Americans reach normal magnesium levels, and Curcumin, a potent anti-inflammatory and anti-oxidant.

Lemon Balm (Melissa officinalis)

1-3 infusions / day; 1-5 grams of fresh plant or up to 10 grams of dried plant.

This is a plant with many, many benefits. It can be taken as a tea or in pill form, or in the form of an essential oil. Its medicinal properties have been used for over 2000 years, originating primarily in the Mediterranean and Asia. It is rich in calcium, phosphor, vitamins A and C.

Beneficial for

  • Anxiety
  • Insomnia
    • Improves quality and duration of sleep
    • Prevents nightmares
    • Improves restlessness
    • Decreases time to fall asleep
  • Nervousness
  • Sadness (known to boost mood/sense of joy)
    • Minimizes irritability
  • Painful periods / amenorrhea
  • Stomach discomfort / reflux
    • Reduces heartburn
    • Improves nausea, including during pregnancy
  • Irritable Bowel Syndrome
  • Heart regulation, especially for anxiety-induced rapid pulse
  • Hypertension
  • Headaches
  • Thyroid abnormalities
    • Has been used for Graves disease and for hypothyroidism (under care of a physician or naturopath)
  • Impaired focus and concentration
    • Helps with memory acquisition
    • Used with benefit in Alzheimer’s patients
  • Viral and bacterial illnesses
    • Beneficial when used for herpes, shingles, cold sores, wounds

There are no firm contraindications for the use of Lemon Balm. It is considered safely used for four months, but long-term use has not been fully researched yet. Some feel it to be safe in pregnancy, including Health Canada, which named it as one of six herbs safely consumed as a tea in pregnancy. However, other sites feel data remains insufficient to comfortable suggest its use in pregnancy, especially during the first trimester.

N-Acetyl Cysteine

(NAC): 1200-1800mg/day in divided doses

Several trials have supported the use of NAC for anxiety and to stabilize mood; NAC increases glutathione production in the body. Glutathione is a ‘super antioxidant,’ with nearly countless benefits in the body. It is a potent neutralizer of toxic free radicals. It protects the body from cellular damage; the list goes on and on.

Beneficial for

  • Liver toxicity
    • NAC is used in IV form when a person overdoses on Tylenol to help stabilize and protect the liver
  • Unexplained, recurrent miscarriage
    • Studies have found that taking NAC (600mg) with folic acid (or even better, folate) improves the chances a pregnancy continues through week 20 by 190%, and increases the number of healthy babies delivered as compared to taking folic acid alone.
  • Elevated mercury levels
    • Detoxifies mercury from the body, including during pregnancy, when such levels could otherwise be neurotoxic for a developing fetus
  • Infertility in women with PCOS
    • Increases ovulation rates from 1-49%
    • Improves pregnancy rates by over 40% and reduces miscarriage odds by 60% in women with PCOS
  • Mood stabilization
    • Improves depressive symptoms
    • Improves anxiety symptoms
    • Some research indicates benefit for OCD
  • Immune function
    • Reduces flu symptoms
    • Helps prevent immune dysfunction

Probiotics

10 billion CFU tabs – 1-2 tabs daily

There is increasing evidence supporting the connections between gut health and whole body health. Probiotics are well known to support GI function, improve and stabilize mood, and has many benefits for mom and baby if taken in advance of and during pregnancy.

Beneficial for

  • Depression
  • Anxiety
  • Cholesterol levels
  • Liver disease
  • Allergies
  • Cancer
    • Known to prevent various cancers
  • Yeast infections

The benefits when taken in advance of and during pregnancy are impressive

  • Reduces risk of allergies in offspring
  • When taken with Vitamin D, reduce the risk of preeclampsia, the number one risk of maternal death in the US, presumably by lowering gut inflammation to lower blood pressure during pregnancy
  • When taken during the first trimester, improves rate of weight loss postpartum.
  • Improves absorption of necessary nutrients by lowering chance of leaky gut syndrome; the more nutrients mom absorbs, the more baby receives during crucial development in-utero.
  • Reduces gas, bloating, heartburn and constipation
  • Preliminary data suggests reduced risk of postpartum depression and anxiety when probiotics are taken during and after pregnancy.

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