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Wells, UK — (SBWIRE) — 05/10/2013 — A new article from
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was created in April 2012 and features some general
weight loss articles, as well as reviews of individual
diet pills and supplements. It aims to provide helpful
advice with regards to which weight loss supplements are
the most effective.
Do Ayurvedic Supplements for Menopause Work?
My efforts to keep wrinkles at bay are pretty minimal.
I’m not into Botox or high-end creams and serums. In
fact, I barely wash my face. My personal anti-aging
formula has focused more on clean-ish eating, walking and
maintaining a daily meditation practice. I also have
genetics on my side. Even in my early 40s, I would still
get asked for ID when buying a bottle of wine. Nobody was
calling me ma’am.
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But then, well before 50, menopause arrived and “aging”
became more challenging. Hot flashes surged, brain fog
rolled in, and some super-annoying belly fat insidiously
accumulated as if to say, “You are so done wearing
Approaching menopause from all angles
What my mom had always lamented as “the change of life”
was now in full force in me. I wanted relief, but I also
became interested in the nature of aging and looking at
different modalities to ease its effects. I sought out
approaches ranging from traditional Western medicine to
acupuncture to Ayurveda.
Ayurvedic medicine, as practiced in India, is one of the
oldest systems of medicine in the world, according to the
National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health.
The term Ayurveda combines the Sanskrit words ayur (life)
and veda (science or knowledge).
When I discussed my mid-life concerns with an Ayurvedic
doctor, he suggested I make some lifestyle changes
including drinking a special tea, going to bed earlier
and embracing a healthy diet that included certain warm
and nourishing foods. He also recommended an Ayurvedic
supplement. After getting the OK from my primary care
physician, I ordered the pills.
The supplement contained herbs including shatavari (a
species of asparagus) and vidarikanda (a plant with
tuberous roots). It offered to boost energy and stamina
as well as lessen menopause symptoms, stabilize mood, and
enhance cognitive skills.
It’s not you, it’s me, I thought, staring at the pill
I set out to try the plan for 30 days and keep a log. But
things went downhill fast. Yes, I took the pills. But I
was juggling multiple work projects and ended up getting
less sleep than usual. I fell off the diet after two
weeks, often forgot to drink the tea, and one night after
midnight found myself consuming every snack and treat in
the house left over from the holidays. I wondered, would
the supplement still work on its own, or would this be an
The results: By the end of the trial, I did feel a bit
more energetic, and my hot flashes seemed less intense.
But overall, the effects were subtle. It’s not you, it’s
me, I thought, staring at the pill bottle.
You can’t just take a pill
I decided to check in with Suzanne Gilberg Lenz, MD, a
Los Angeles ob-gyn who is also board certified in
integrative and holistic medicine. I asked her if
Ayurvedic supplements can be a valid means of treating
women for some of their menopausal issues. She answered
with an emphatic “yes,” and a caveat that Ayurveda is not
about cherrypicking treatment. While the Western approach
to medicine often focuses on symptom management, Eastern
modalities like Ayurveda take a more holistic approach
and deal with root cause and prevention. “We do ourselves
a disservice when we try to apply Eastern tools with a
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Determined to learn more, I also consulted NAMA-certified
Ayurvedic practitioner Anjali Deva, who spent time
studying with Ayurvedic doctors in India before bringing
her expertise to clients at La Maida Institute in North
Hollywood, CA. She explained that Ayurveda seeks balance
between prakruti, the constitution you are born with, and
vikruti, your current state of health. “When approaching
menopause it’s very easy to go in and out of balance,”
Deva explained. “We have this very strong call to action
to take care of ourselves because it’s setting the
foundation for the rest of our lives.”
Much of Ayurveda is about paying attention, Deva said,
which made me resolve to be more attuned to what’s
happening in my life before embarking on my next holistic
Bottom line: If I’m going to go with an Eastern approach,
I have to do the work. All the work.
Bottom line: If I’m going to go with an Eastern approach,
I have to do the work. All the work. “Ayurveda’s tool box
is filled with many things and herbs are one of them,”
she said. ” We get to use diet and lifestyle and body
work as well. We need to be mindful of not just taking a
capsule but also: how are we eating, how are we sleeping,
how is our stress? What’s showing up on our skin?”
It’s about taking charge of our own health and wellness,
“putting our own oxygen mask on first” as the over-used
saying goes. Or maybe in this case, doing our own yoga
asanas first. “Self-care is an aspect of Ayurveda that is
really important,” Deva said. “We’re asking you to be
more mindful and to give yourself things that take time.
It’s in a way asking you to change your priorities and
values, and that’s never easy. It can be uncomfortable.
But it’s key to building our resiliency.”
Weight-loss pill warning: 3 women tell their stories
You can’t escape the ads. They pop up on TV, on your
Twitter feed, on your Facebook page: “100 percent
natural.” “This miracle pill can burn fat fast.”
The ingredients are seemingly plant-based—green tea
extract, bitter orange, raspberry ketones—and
harmless-sounding. Some of these products have been
widely touted as safe or downright miraculous. Even
Mehmet Oz, M.D., the trusted Dr. Oz, has made headlines
because he’s featured controversial ingredients on his
show. In June he was called to testify at a Senate
hearing, where he faced tough questions from Senator
Claire McCaskill (D–Mo.). Women who would never dream of
taking an old-school chemical diet pill may wonder: Are
natural products a safe, easy answer to losing those
Related: 20 Superfoods For Weight Loss
That’s what Kari Skitka was hoping. The 24-year-old
marketing associate, based in New York City, thought
she’d found the answer in a bottle of raspberry ketone
“I’d read they would suppress my appetite and give my
workouts an extra boost,” she said.
Skitka did lose some weight on the pills, but it came at
“I felt a little manic,” she said, “dizzy, shaky and
nauseated. But I thought I could handle it. I was willing
to endure some negative side effects because I knew I
wouldn’t be taking it forever. I was looking at it as a
While dieting, exercising and taking the pills, she lost
20 pounds. But she finally decided the symptoms weren’t
worth it. She stopped taking the pills, the side effects
went away, and eventually she gained back every pound.
Still, she was relatively lucky: Other women who have
taken these and other seemingly natural weight loss
supplements have experienced side effects ranging from
mild to extreme—some even life-threatening.
It may seem hard to believe, but dietary supplement
manufacturers (unlike pharmaceutical companies) don’t
have to prove that their products work or even that
they’re safe. They don’t have to get approval from the
FDA before selling them to the public. In 1994, Congress
passed a law called the Dietary Supplement Health and
Education Act, which determined that supplements should
be regulated as foods, not drugs.
Related: Secrets To Firing Up Your Metabolism
That means the rules are less rigorous, which has
unsurprisingly been a boon to the industry. Before 1994,
there were about 4,000 dietary supplements on the market.
Today they number approximately 85,000. Some 180 million
Americans spend more than $32 billion a year on
nutritional supplements, many of which are in the weight
“The law basically said manufacturers can do whatever
they want in terms of safety and advertising,” said Dr.
Pieter Cohen, assistant professor at Harvard Medical
School, who has studied the dangers of nutritional
supplements extensively. “That allowed the industry to
grow to where it is now.”
There are so many products on store shelves and on the
Internet, when you buy one, you really don’t know what
Sainah Theodore learned this the hard way when she
decided to shape up and lose some weight. She wanted
something to kick-start her regimen of running, swimming
and Spinning. So the 27-year-old went to a Brooklyn, New
York, health food store, where, a year and a half
earlier, she’d bought some diet pills. Theodore had lost
15 pounds on the pills but eventually regained the
weight. Now, she thought she’d try again.
Related: 6 Moves To Resize Your Butt and Thighs
This time, she was directed to a supplement called
Natural Lipo X. Theodore knew she was sensitive to
caffeine (it makes her heart feel fluttery). According to
a lawsuit she has filed against the store, Theodore was
told that the pills did not contain caffeine and had
“absolutely no side effects.”
She said, “The language was very clear. And I trusted
That turned out to be a mistake. Two nights after
starting Natural Lipo X, Theodore says, she began
experiencing sleeplessness that would turn into complete
insomnia; three days later, she stopped taking the pills.
After about a week of little or no sleep, she had a
breakdown. She lashed out at coworkers and friends and
inexplicably stopped her car in the middle of an
intersection one night.
“Something was definitely wrong,” she said.
Theodore ended up being admitted to a hospital, where she
was sedated. When she awoke, clearheaded, in the psych
ward, she told a doctor about the Natural Lipo X. Later,
she learned that the guarana-seed extract in the pills
can contain twice as much caffeine as coffee beans. The
lawsuit alleges that the pills also illegally included
sibutramine, a stimulant that the FDA has warned can lead
to anxiety, insomnia and even heart attacks; and
phenolphthalein, a laxative ingredient now considered to
be possibly carcinogenic. The label did not include the
name and address of the manufacturer, which are required
by the FDA.
Even now, neither Theodore nor her lawyers know who made
the pills. And the health food store has denied the
allegations in the suit.
Theodore says she was unable to work for two months after
she left the hospital. She adds that she worries about
how this episode might affect her, professionally and
personally, in the future.
“I’m embarrassed about the things I did,” she said. “It’s
so not like me.”
Stories like Theodore’s have led some health experts to
call for radical changes in the way diet aids are
manufactured, marketed and regulated.
“Supplement producers should have to prove that their
pills are safe and effective,” Dr. Cohen said.
Last summer, Senator Dick Durbin (D–Ill.) proposed a law
requiring supplement companies to submit a list of
ingredients to the FDA, and for products to carry a label
warning of possible adverse reactions. The industry
opposes the legislation, and at press time, the bill was
still in committee. For now, the only way to ensure your
safety is to avoid diet supplements completely.
Karina Lujan wishes she’d never tried them. She says she
first took OxyElite Pro in 2012 and then again in 2013.
The 37-year-old Texan was already plenty active: She
regularly hit the gym with her husband, ran up and down
stadium stairs and went for bike rides with her three
boys. But she says she wanted to lose the baby weight she
was still carrying after giving birth to her fourth
child. She thought OxyElite Pro might help rev up her
workouts, so why not give it a try?
One day after a dose, Lujan says she was walking up a
flight of stairs when she suddenly felt out of breath.
She started sweating and felt tremendous pain and
pressure in her upper body, and her arm went numb. It
turned out she was having a heart attack.
“I couldn’t understand it,” she said. “You hear stories
of things like this happening to people who are a lot
older and out of shape, not someone who’s young and
healthy and has no history of heart problems. I was
Lujan survived, but 18 months later, she says she’s still
feeling the effects. She’s taking blood thinners and
medication to control her heartbeat. According to a
lawsuit she filed against USPlabs, the manufacturer of
OxyElite Pro, she has lost 10 to 20 percent of her heart
function. She says she also has tachycardia, a condition
that makes her heart beat too fast. She has yet to
venture back to the gym or return to her bike riding.
“How can I be like this for the rest of my life?” she
The OxyElite Pro that Lujan bought contained DMAA, a
stimulant sometimes called geranium extract. According to
the FDA, it’s an amphetamine derivative that can lead to
heart attacks. In 2012, the agency issued letters to 11
manufacturers, including USPlabs, warning them that DMAA
was illegal and calling on them to remove it from their
products. Initially USPlabs questioned the FDA’s legal
basis for the order, but eventually the company
eliminated the ingredient, recalled products from
retailers and destroyed its own inventory when threatened
with stronger FDA action.
In 2013, USPlabs released a new version of OxyElite Pro
that contained aegeline, a synthetic version of a natural
extract found in an Asian tree. In Hawaii last year, 44
people suffered either acute hepatitis or liver failure
after taking it; one person died. Other cases of
OxyElite-related injuries came to light. In all, nearly
100 people around the country experienced liver disease
from the pills, and three of them needed liver
transplants. In November last year, the FDA called on
USPlabs to recall the product. USPlabs said it knew of
“no valid concern about the safety of aegeline or
OxyElite Pro” but, as “a precautionary measure,” agreed
to stop using the substance, issued a recall and
destroyed remaining stocks.
USPlabs has denied responsibility for Lujan’s heart
damage, and her case is headed to court. Six Hawaiian
consumers have also sued USPlabs.
Despite all of these problems, natural-sounding weight
loss supplements continue to attract women. Karen
Jacobs-Poles, a nurse at Penn Presbyterian Medical Center
in Philadelphia, tries to be cautious about what she puts
in her body. But the forty-something mother of three
wanted to lose about 30 pounds, and exercising and eating
fresh fruit and veggies didn’t seem to be doing it. Then,
one night in 2011, she saw a commercial for Slimquick, a
diet supplement that billed itself as tailored to the
problems women have losing weight, Jacobs-Poles said.
“That really drew me in.”
Slimquick claimed to be “the only weight loss supplement
to help women lose up to 25 pounds.” The berry-flavored
drink mix contained green tea extract, and since she
wanted to avoid potentially harmful chemicals, that
appealed to her.
“I’d heard a lot about green tea and berries, and how
they help your metabolism,” she said. “I thought it
Jacobs-Poles lost 15 pounds in about a month, with, she
thought, no side effects. After a couple of weeks,
though, she started to notice that she was more tired
“I figured it was just life and being constantly on the
go,” she said.
But it kept getting worse, and eventually she felt
fatigued all the time. Then a coworker noticed that her
eyes had turned bright yellow, a symptom of a sick liver.
“I was scared,” Jacobs-Poles said. “I should have been
feeling great, but instead I felt exhausted and awful.”
According to a lawsuit Jacobs-Poles has filed against
Slimquick, a blood test found dangerously high levels of
liver enzymes. Doctors diagnosed her with jaundice, acute
hepatitis and an enlarged liver. Her suit contends that
this was a direct result of ingesting Slimquick
“I thought I did everything right, all my due diligence,”
Jacobs-Poles said. “I was trying to be healthy. How was I
to know it would make me so sick instead?”
She recalls it took almost a year before her liver
functions were back to normal and almost another year
before the exhaustion finally lifted. In their response
to the lawsuit, the company that distributes Slimquick,
Platinum US Distribution, denies responsibility for
Jacobs-Poles’s liver problems, saying that the products
are made by third-party contractors.
An analysis by the National Institutes of Health’s
Drug-Induced Liver Injury Network of patients with liver
illness from dietary supplement use found that cases
increased from 7 percent to 20 percent from 2004 to 2012.
And while the potential for dangerous side effects is one
huge reason not to take “natural” weight loss
supplements, here’s another: Most of these products don’t
work, said Melinda Manore, professor of nutrition at
Oregon State University in Corvallis. In her review of
hundreds of studies, Manore found that none of the
products helped women lose more than a few pounds.
“There is not one of these products I would recommend to
anyone trying to lose weight,” she said.
The only way to be sure you’re safe and not sorry? Do
what Jacobs-Poles and other women wish they had done:
Leave those weight loss supplements on the shelf.
This article originally appeared on Self.com.
Additional reporting by Sara Angle.
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