Category Archives: Product

Are Your Supplements Full of Shit?

Supplement quality is a constant challenge here in the United States for many reasons. One of the main challenges is that the FDA, the government agency responsible for ensuring safety and efficacy of supplements, is heavily employed by individuals with significant ties to commercial supplement interests.  Another challenge is that funding for the FDA is limited enough that reliable, consistent enforcement of existing laws is laughable, at best. There is simply not enough manpower to enforce current laws on the books, so it takes significant consumer harm and backlash to get investigations underway.

Despite this, the New York Attorney General conducted an investigation in 2014 and 2015 on common supplements one can purchase over the counter. The degree of label misrepresentation was astonishing and, quite frankly, morally reprehensible.


In the graphic above, you can see that most of the supplements tested had no traces of DNA matching the labeled material being tested. There is some argument that the method used (DNA barcoding) may be inaccurate as an extracted, dissolved, crushed or otherwise altered plant may have altered DNA that was not detected as it was compared to whole plant DNA.  Even if this were so and it accounted for the Attorney General’s findings, it does not excuse the fact that GMP standards (the standard by which supplement companies are supposed to adhere to) were not met in over 50% of the 450 companies inspected by the FDA. Note that the FDA does not even have enough resources to inspect all operating facilities in the USA.

The GMP stands for ‘Good Manufacturing Practices’. This is the absolute basic level of quality a manufacturer is expected to adhere to – maintaining sanitary facilities, preventing cross contamination, documenting of procedures, the ability to trace batches and systems to recall products if necessary, etc. The GMP has no enforcement of quality of the product or the raw materials in the product. Over 50% of tested facilities had violations ranging from no written formula available for their product and no concerns for cross contamination of major allergens to products contaminated with rat feces. So yes, you supplement may literally be full of shit.

Basically in the GMP we have a set standard that is unenforceable and so it can’t even assure us that what is on the label is in the label. Investigations consistently show that there are major problems with the supplements most Americans have access to. Consumer Labs reports 1 in 4 products has a major problem – from significant deviation of the amount in the product vs what is listed on the bottle, to rancid oils and products that won’t break down in the body – the ‘expensive urine’ you’ve been warned about.

What on earth do you do?!?!

Well, according to the graphic above, it would seem best not to get generic supplements available from big box stores.

Beyond the FDA are some consumer watchdog groups that are our best bet for quality assurance – many of these were created before the GMP standards came into play, but remain a higher quality than what the FDA can assure us right now: is a for profit company. A supplement company can pay them to have their product tested for quality and carry the Consumer Lab seal of approval. If that product fails to meet criteria it will not be listed on the website. However, if Consumer Lab purchases the supplement from a store and the supplement fails they will post results on their website. So it’s a ‘give us money and you can choose to post results or not’ situation, unless they purchase the product from a store, much like you would, and test it themselves.

A Consumer Labs seal of approval will assure that:

  • contains the key ingredients listed on the label in the declared potency and amounts; it does not contain harmful levels of specified contaminants using stringent limits, for example, California Proposition 65.
  • Product disintegrates or dissolves per USP standards (75% or more dissolves in less than 60 minutes time)
  • The product contains the tested ingredients listed on the label in the declared amounts and of high quality; any health claims must comply with FDA regulations.

USP – United States Pharmacopeia. This third party non-profit tests ingredients, finished products and conducts facility audits. Learn more about the USP here.

A USP certification assures that:

  • The product contains the ingredients listed on the label in the declared potency and amounts; it does not contain harmful levels of specified contaminants; and it has been manufactured according to FDA current GMPs and USP GMPs.
  • Absence of ingredients with known safety risk; appropriate allergen labeling; meets acceptable levels of specified contaminants, based on toxicologic concerns; testing per California Proposition 65 for labeling purposes.
  • Product disintegrates or dissolves per USP standards.
  • Product label has an accurate list of ingredients in the stated amounts. All claims of fact, either stated or implied, must be supported by data, consistent with USP program requirements. Any health claims must be within FDA regulations.

NSF – the NSF is a non-profit organization that tests a variety of consumer products. The NSF dietary supplements certification program assures the following:

  • Label claim review to certify that what’s on the label is in the bottle
  • Contaminant review to ensure the product contains no undeclared ingredients or unacceptable levels of contaminants, including >200 athletic banned substances for Certified for Sport products; it has been manufactured according to FDA’s current GMPs.
  • All claims of fact made for the product, either stated or implied, must be accurate, consistent with NSF program requirements, and meaningful in terms of the benefits offered.

Therapeutic Goods Administration of Australia – considered the most stringent and vigorous of certifying bodies, the TGA requires the same amount of testing for supplements as done for pharmaceutical drugs, as Australia does not distinguish between supplements or drugs. Down under, your multivitamin is considered ‘complimentary medicine’. Very few companies in the USA are certified through TGA. This is considered the gold standard worldwide.

Make sure that the company you use has the final product being tested to ensure that what is on the label is in the label, that contaminants are absent. You can contact them directly and ask them what they are doing for quality assurance and ask for proof if you do not see it on their website or you can check out Consumer Labs.

Thorne Research is a company that has transparent, clear quality assurance that they openly share with their customers. Many companies will not have their quality assurance clearly listed on the website, nor will they even have a number to call to get information! Pharmaceutical grade supplements that are available from practitioners will often meet these higher standards, share them openly, and remain consistent in testing to assure quality. This is precisely why licensed professionals use them; a quality standard is essential to producing reliable results for patients. You can read Thorne’s Quality Assurance here. Other supplement companies with pharmaceutical grade quality include Metagenics, Pure Encapsulations, Xymogen, Douglas Labs and Seeking Health. These are typically not found in supplement stores, although if there is a Pharmaca near you you may find some of these companies there.

If you would like shop for supplements that are GMP certified and practitioner grade check out the VIBRANCE Nutrition Dispensary. You can find many supplements available only at your doctor’s office, such as Pure Encapsulations, Seeking Health, Metagenics and more. Sign up for our newsletter and email me if you’d like a 10% discount on all supplements through Fullscript!

Purchase products through our Fullscript virtual dispensary.

Knight, Peter, ND. (2016). Whole Foods Nutrition and Supplementation: Week 10: Lecture 2: Quality Issues in the Dietary Supplement Industry [class notes]. 

O’Connor, Anahad. New York Attorney General Targets Supplements at Major Retailers. New York Times, FEBRUARY 3, 2015. Accessed online 27 September 2016

THE EDITORIAL BOARD. Conflicts of Interest at the F.D.A. New York Times, APRIL 13, 2015. Accessed online 27 September 2016.

Unknown. (2016). Quality Certification Programs for Dietary Supplements. JOURNAL OF THE ACADEMY OF NUTRITION AND DIETETICS. Volume 116 Number 9

Initial Review: The Whole Life Nutrition Cookbook

The Whole Life Nutrition Cookbook has been one of a reliably gifted cookbooks for our clients. One day last winter VIBRANCE Health Coach Kelly Ross informed me that she was unable to order a fresh batch from Amazon or the Author’s website. copies were suddenly being sold for over $150.00! I contacted Alissa Segersten to see what was up and she informed me that they were about to release an updated version in Spring 2014. Until then we were, as they say, S.O.L.

So, Kelly and I have been on pins and needles waiting for publication! I was blessed to be gifted an advance copy of the cookbook thanks to the generosity of authors Alissa Segersten and Tom Malterre. Truthfully, I poured into it immediately with the previous edition at my side to do a side by side comparison. When I opened up the book I landed upon a section titled, “Get Cultured” which highlighted various cultured and fermented recipes. I was HOOKED.

I opened up this cookbook and decided to get cultured.
I opened up this cookbook and decided to get cultured.

In the days following it’s official release, I have fermented radishes, made water kefir, and have a batch of cabbage bubbling away in the corner of my kitchen (I reliably make soggy-ass sauerkraut, so I’m hoping Alissa and Tom’s recipe will save me from my shame). Yes, I’ve looked beyond these initial recipes but I’m so hooked on probiotics and fermentation right now I haven’t yet tried the other recipes.


You Haven't Truly Lived Until You've Tried These Fermented Radishes.
You Haven’t Truly Lived Until You’ve Tried These Fermented Radishes.


Now that so much of my existing counter space is taken up with lactobacillus colonies hard at work I am contemplating preparing a loaf of gluten-free sourdough (I did not know it could be done!), and some chicken verde enchiladas for the upcoming week….or maybe the coconut lime chicken? With so many options, the cookbook will be a kitchen mainstay for several months to come.

Of note – Alissa and Tom also offer several grain-free dessert options, which I appreciate. I’m a fan of coconut flour and am eye-balling that banana cake recipe for an upcoming summer pot luck. From what I’ve experienced in previous editions, this cookbook is going to be chock full of culinary gems for your healthy whole foods kitchen. And never to sell a reader short, Alissa and Tom have also utilized a couple of chapters in sharing balanced advice on different popular eating philosophies, must-haves for stocking a whole foods kitchen and, my favorite, a fantastic chapter on Digestive Health.

I’d encourage you to learn more about these fantastic practitioners at their website Whole Life Nutrition and their recipe blog to get a sense of the tastiness. The latest and greatest version of Whole Life Nutrition Cookbook has been released and is available on Amazon (for far less than $150!).

My Second Favorite Kitchen Tool

In the last 18 hours, I’ve pressure cooked gumbo and slow-cooked my first batch of applesauce from an early-fruiting tree in the backyard, with only a cleaning of a single pot between projects.

Now that’s what I call kitchen bliss!

One Pot Happiness

My now favorite kitchen tool in the world is the Instant Pot IP-DUO60 7-in-1 Multi-Functional Pressure Cooker. It gets pulled out multiple times a week for bone broth, homemade beans, stews (quick or slow!), and now applesauce. I’ll use it for plum jam, too, I imagine; the plum tree is almost ready and quite abundant this year. I batch cook chicken, dairy-free saag, and roasts as well.

If I am pressure cooking or slow cooking, I just chuck everything into the pot and press a button. 30 minutes to 19 hours later my meal is complete. Roasted chicken, chile verde, 3 day marrow broth….so much deliciousness in one little machine!

I love that this single device cooks grains, beans, stews, roasts hunks of meat, makes wicked broth, cultures yogurt, cooks apples to mush and infuses flavors deeply into my food whether it is in quick or slow mode. One machine with several uses is always worth having around! The keep warm function lasts forever, so I can have hot food on hand and not worry about it turning off in the middle of the night (a great feature when you want overnight oats hot and ready at 6am!).

So inspired am I by the last day of effortless yet delicious cooking that I had to share. Be sure to search the blog for recipes I post here and subscribe to my newsletter to receive secret recipes from my upcoming Instant Pot cookbook!


What’s my Number Two Favorite Kitchen Tool, you ask?

My Vitamix. Mainly because it has stood the test of time after 20 years of love. My InstaPot gave it a run for its money, and came out ahead after about two years of consistent use.

Best Health Apps of 2012

Sleep Cycle – This iPhone app sounds amazing! It actually monitors your movement and uses this data to determine an appropriate time to wake you so you are not in deep sleep. I’ve heard first hand accounts of its effectiveness, and is very highly rated. To learn more, and purchase this app, click here.

Android users do not have this app available, but Sleep as Android is available. I downloaded the trial of this app and tested it out – it very effectively measures movement in the bed as an indicator of depth of sleep. Data collected showed what percentage of my sleep was ‘deep sleep’, the average amount of sleep debt I accumulated each night as well as total sleep debt during the course of the trial. Using this app I discovered that some reliable, consistent factors that were inhibiting sleep and used the data to make some changes. There is now an add-on for $1.79 that is called Sleep Stats and has more in-depth tracking as well as advice to gain more deep sleep. Well worth checking out if this is a concern for you.

my Fitness Pal – I hate calorie counters. Like nearly all other food trackers, My Fitness Pal focuses in on the archaic “calories in, calories out” model (which is really dieting and which we all know doesn’t work). This is the most comprehensive app I have found, however, for tracking food intake, water and exercise intake. What I would LOVE to see is the ability to adjust the nutritent ratios on the app so that I can focus more on protein and carbohydrates rather than calories. The only reason I was compelled to download this to test it out is the scanner option that allows you to scan the barcode of that food bar or box of cookies you just picked up to add it to your daily food log. That saves oodles of time searching through a comprehensive database on the phone, and consequently makes this app a winner. My advice: log your food, water and exercise as a tracker, ignore the calorie warnings, and use the info you gather to meet your goals. By clicking on the “daily” assessment you can take a look at a pie chart which gives you a breakdown of your protein, carbohydrate and fat intake by percentages, which I find much more useful. Because the app syncs with an online site, you have the ability to use the information from your PC and laptop as well as print out your logs. Click here to download MyFitnessPal for an Android phone, and click here to download it to your iPhone

Out of Milk – I am using this all the time – I can keep track of what’s in my pantry, what I need to purchase, AND create additional lists – to do lists for business, restaurants to try out, movies to see, etc. The big sell on this is you can scan the barcode of an empty box to add it to your shopping list AND sync your list with your partner’s or email it to him or her so that you both don’t go to the store and double up, or you can make sure everything on the grocery list gets purchased! There is also an option to set reminder alarms for those items on the list, move things between lists, and see what you previously had on your grocery list so you have a running idea of frequent purchases, as well as their cost. Price: FREE, with $1.99 for an upgrade that allows online syncing and back-up, list sharing on multiple devices, and a coupon tracker. Out of Milk is free, then click here to upgrade to Out of Milk Pro for Android users. Apple users, fret not – Out of Milk is developing an iPhone app; in fact, they are looking for beta testers if you want to be one!

Period Tracker – I have been using this app for over a year, and can subsequently geek out on knowing the exact day and length of my menstrual cycle. This tracker also allows you to log mood changes and PMS symptoms, weight, and body temperature and uses the last three cycles to fairly accurately determine your upcoming cycle date. This is PERFECT for what I call “PMS amnesia”, or that time of the month when you don’t know why you’re so cranky and irritable and sensitive…until you know EXACTLY why. 😉 It is also an excellent tool to monitor your fertility to prevent or facilitate pregnancy.

Back in the day, when we just had calendars, my mom taught me to track my cycle by putting little flowers on the calendar when my cycle began. Seeing the flowers bloom on this app reminds me a little of that, and endears me to this app even more. My only request of Period Tracker: that it also track the lunar cycle so women can begin to see how the lunar cycle corresponds to their own menstrual cycle. Click here to download Period Tracker on the ‘droid for free and click here to download it from iTunes!

There are tens of thousands of health apps on the market now – these are just a few I have come across that I believe offer great value and have proven useful to me personally. What are YOUR favorite health apps? I’d love to hear what else is out there, especially for iPhone users, since I have less exposure to those apps. Comment below and share which apps you find most useful!

VIBRANCE Recommends: The Holiday Edition!

Below are a few of my favorite health and fitness products. I use each of these regularly enough to consider them pretty indispensable, must-have tools in my healthy living toolbox. Consider adding them to your holiday gift wish list or gifting them to others who you know would really appreciate the thoughtfulness!

1) George Foreman Grill: George, I am disturbed that you have named all your children after yourself, but I gotta love your grill. I bought my GFG back in 2005 when I began eating meat again and had to consider cooking it myself. It sat, unused in box, until this fall. Now it is a permanent fixture on my counter and gets used several times a week! 3 pounds of chicken breasts, cooked and ready to go in 30 minutes! Fish fillets, grilled to perfection in 3 minutes?!?!? YES, YES, YES. I no longer have to worry about spills or messy oven clean-up, I can cook a week’s worth of protein in less time, and I cannot even begin to tell you how much easier it is to keep ready-to-eat lean protein in the house now. I only wished I had been brave enough to crack open the box 6 years ago. George has more grill varieties than you can shake a boxing glove at  here.

2) Vitamix: My first kitchen tool and my first big ticket household item, a Vitamix has been an staple in my home since I was 18 years old. I make smoothies, emulsify dressings, grind nuts, and can make my wheat-free flour in 45 seconds at less than half the price. My food processor hasn’t been used in years (probably as long as I’ve had that George Foreman grill) is in a box to be donated to charity. Yes it’s pricey, but it is worth it. Ask anyone who owns one; our pupils dilate a little, our voice gets higher and it’s hard not to get ecstatic at the opportunity to fawn over our high horsepower kitchen tool. You can check out a video on the Vitamix awesomeness here and order one here (use coupon code 06-001737 to get free shipping)

3) Zrii: How is it that I am never sick? How can I wake up refreshed on less sleep than in my 20’s? How is it that I ran 150 miles a month and completed a marathon and three half marathons in 6 months? Zrii. This red bottle of Ayurvedic magic is my primary tool in keeping my body balanced and strong. Deepak Chopra and his colleagues at the Chopra Center for Well-being developed this tonic a few years ago and I’ve fallen in love with it. It’s sweet tart flavor and potent herbal formula is kind of addictive. Be forewarned. Learn more about Zrii and try it out yourself by clicking here.  I also share this product with clients and others and am very familiar with the entire line, so you can email me with any questions you have about it!

4) Garmin Forerunner: I’m an info junkie. I use my Garmin to keep track of my heart rate, mileage, route taken, altitude, direction, and more. It kept me from getting lost running in Paris in the early morning and trekking through small Costa Rican towns. It teases me by displaying my split times so I know if I am going faster or slower than I was the mile before or the day before. And I can download all the data and cross-reference to my heart’s content. I have the 305 – an older model. The 405 is prettier, yes, but consistent in-person and internet reviews indicate that the touch bevel creates more problems than convenience. My advice is to stick with the bulkier but better designed 300 series and opt for the studly, waterproof Forerunner 310 with heart rate monitor.

 The Flavor Bible: A must-have  guide for those ready to delve into kitchen alchemy, this book is probably my top gift giving item every year. Look up apples, see they pair well with sour cream, almonds, and rosemary – then take that to the kitchen and revamp your old sour cream coffee cake recipe. I found persimmons at the farmer’s market last winter and wanted to play with them so I brought a few home and created this recipe. The Flavor Bible is a culinary cheat sheet that allows you to boldly step out of your comfort zone. The pages contain whispers of great chefs and menu-making magicians ensuring you can do no wrong. It’s one of my best (and least kept) kitchen secrets and a treasured gem for any food lover!

VIBRANCE Recommends: Nutriiveda Weight Management Shake

I like to try new things.  A lot.
I’m a dabbler. If it holds up to my quality standards and seems like something my clients might benefit from, I’ll give it a try.

Right now I am playing with a lot of new products, which I will be talking about here in the coming months, but I wanted to share this one first.

NutriiVeda is a weight management shake that is based on Ayurvedic herbs and modern nutrition. At first I thought it probably wouldn’t be that much different than anything else. My experience had been that protein powders generally feel the same in your body (unless one has a food sensitivity) and it is really a matter of taste preference and quality assurance.

In this case, it’s a little different.

While the basis of NutriiVeda is whey protein (which research shows to be most beneficial to retaining muscle and providing highly absorbed amino acids), the most notable difference is the addition of seven plant botanicals which very effectively curb cravings and appetite.

I tried it. I can vouch for it.
I currently exercise between 7 and 10 hours a week, which means that I get hungry often. I eat about every 2-3 hours, be it a handful or trail mix or an all out meal. When I received my first jar of NutriiVeda and mixed it as directed (just the powder and unsweetened almond milk) I found that no thought of food crossed my mind until nearly 4 hours later.

People, this is unheard of.

That got me pretty excited. It exceeded my expectations, which is hard to do!
Not only this, but being sensitive to dairy I was a little wary of a whey based shake, even if it is listed as casein and lactose free. My digestive system handled it quite well and I have found it to be a tasty, quick snack during busy work hours that allows me to focus more on work and less on snack. I find my blood sugar stays balanced, I stay focused and am actually as productive as I am on caffeine, without the nasty side effects.

NutriiVeda also comes with a 12 week weight loss program that introduces the follower to the concepts of Ayurveda and eating for one’s dosha to find balance in the body (which is designed to facilitate weight loss).  What I love most about the program is it’s incorporation into MINDFULNESS as an essential component; journaling and meditation are key elements to this program. Beginning in January, VIBRANCE will be offering the 12 week program in a group format and include other concepts of healthy living and more detailed information on Ayurvedic eating.

I am considering keeping a supply of it on hand for clients to try.  In the meantime,  if you are interested in trying it out contact me and I can assist you in getting started. The product is currently available through distributors only (unless you live near the Chopra Center in Carlsbad, CA) so it is pretty hard to stumble upon unless you know someone (and you do!)

For more information on the product and to check out the NutriiVeda Diet Program, click here. Want to try it yourself? Click  “join” on the top right corner to give it a try!

VIBRANCE Recommends: Gluten/Soy/Dairy Free Shopping Guide

I just received a piece of bliss in my mailbox.
It looks like this:

This guide is a must-have for anyone with multiple food sensitivities. It takes the guesswork out of the initial search that must go into creating a new lifestyle. I wish I had it last year, but I am so grateful to have it now — it will be a great asset in maintaining an optimal eating structure.

Small enough to fit into your purse, this indispensible guide contains over 10,000 sources of GF/SF/DF items in grocery stores. Is ice cream on your list (or wish it was)? You have no less than 17 brands to choose from, including easily accessible sources like Coldstone Creamery, Dreyers/Edy’s and Safeway Select.

I am so excited to have this guide, and am looking forward to having it as a guide for some of my food-intolerant clientele!
For those of you with food intolerances, what other sources have you utilized to help you navigate the grocery store?

VIBRANCE Recommends: Food for Life Millet Bread

Searching for a tasty gluten-free bread used to be an expensive hit and miss. Up until a few years ago, there were very few options and most of them were so unpalatable it was best to just go without.

Food for Life has done an excellent job of creating a variety of breads that are satisfying, unique, and versatile. Among my favorites of the company’s options is their millet bread; it is the only one I can eat without toasting (although I still prefer it toasted).

Food for Life’s Millet bread is moist and slightly sweet with bits of crunchy whole grain millet embedded in the loaf. It is the perfect carrier to the cashew butter ginger jam breakfast sandwiches that are a mainstay in my home. I nearly always gravitate to this loaf, occasionally seeking variety in the Raisin Almond Loaf or the China Black Rice Loaf.

If you are working on a gluten-free diet, give Food for Life’s Millet Bread a whirl. If you have a personal favorite that you use, please share it here!

Romio's Pizza — now catering to food intolerances!

Romio’s Pizza has wowed me by offering dairy, gluten, and/or soy-free pizzas coming the first week of June!

They have partnered with DaVinci’s bakery to reach out to those of us who have food intolerances. DaVinci’s makes a D/S/F pizza crust and DaVinci’s has been offering soy cheese to those who are lactose intolerant (please note – the soy cheese make have the milk protein casein in it; check with staff to make sure). I’m no stranger to a cheeseless pizza from my vegan days (back in the 90’s, in Alaska, when soy cheese was relatively unheard of), so even if Romio’s hasn’t figured out a dairy-soy free cheese, I’ll gladly order a pie from them the next time I’m having a craving for pizza or wanting to prep for a long run.

Please show Romio’s your support by ordering from them the next time you want a pie. Thank them for considering those with food intolerances and encourage them to keep up the good work!

Romio’s is located in Greenwood, but offers delivers free to the following areas:
North to 160th St.
East to I-5
West to Puget Sound
South to the Ship Canal

Greenwood, Phinney, Green Lake, Wallingford, Fremont, Ballard, Loyal Heights, Crown Hill, North Beach, Blue Ridge, North Park, Broadview, North Gate, And Bitter Lake.


Tel: (206) 782-9005
Fax: (206) 781-9181


VIBRANCE Recommends: Namaste Foods Brownie Mix

You can’t be healthy all the time, right?

In fact, “they” have labeled it as it’s own disorder: orthorexia.
In defiance of othorexia, and spurred forth by menstrual cravings, I made brownies. Gluten, soy, dairy-free brownies.

With the help of my friends at Namaste Foods, I was able to pull some incredibly moist, delicious brownies out of my oven Friday evening. They were light, fluffy, and it was impossible to tell they were wheat-free! They did not crumble, were not gritty, and took my addition of almonds, dried fruits, and candied ginger quite well.

Namaste Foods is a purveyor of allergy-free products. They make it possible for people like me to get a sugar high without getting sick. And while this isn’t recommended, being able to have a slice of cake, a brownie, or some lovely treat without feeling miserable afterwards is a new and welcome concept; highly encouraged for those who have been missing out! No brain fog, no crazy fatigue. No bloating or unmentionable digestive distress. Just sweet, sweet chocolate cakiness in my mouth.

Thank you, Namaste Foods!

(Namaste Foods has a wealth of allergy-free products available at Whole Foods, PCC, Wild Oats, and hopefully – your neighborhood health food store. You may also visit their website by clicking here.