Watch Out For Soy Products

Soy-based products are still quite popular, and the majority of them are touted as “health” foods. However, there is a huge difference between fermented and unfermented soy products.

People of Asian descent like me tend to eat fermented soy products such as soy sauce, miso and tempeh (I draw the line at natto, which is another fermented soy product with a distinctive texture and flavor which I can’t stand). The fermented forms of soy based foods are safe because the fermentation process destroys the antinutrients which are present in soybeans.

In stark contrast, unfermented soy products, including soy milk and tofu, have high concentrations of these antinutrients, including phytates, phytoestrogens, MSG, saponins, trypsin inhibitors, and goitrogens. These substances have multiple deleterious effects on the body, such as impaired absorption of vitamins and minerals, interference with pancreatic and thyroid function, disruption of endocrine function, and damage to the nervous system.

For these reasons, I am strongly opposed to the consumption of soy-based products and eliminate them from patient and client diets whenever possible. If you are vegan, or if you are intolerant of whey or casein, look for other forms of protein, such as pea, quinoa, hemp and amaranth, which cause less inflammation when consumed and have a more benign side effect profile.

What The Hell Is “If It Fits Your Macros” Anyway?

You have probably heard about the “If It Fits Your Macros” (or IIFYM) trend which has been increasing in popularity within the fitness and bodybuilding world. It’s not surprising that the concept was embraced and developed by people within the industry who were sick and tired of adhering to monotonous, restrictive meal plans in which the vast majority of foods were labeled as evil and forbidden. On a personal note, I jumped on the IIFYM bandwagon as well because I was fed up with avoiding certain so-called “bad” foods and also dealing with metabolic burnout from years of caloric restriction. What surprised me was the positive manner in which my body responded to taking in maintenance calories as opposed to constantly functioning at a caloric deficit which only served to slow down my metabolism.

The term macro refers to the principal nutrients which the body requires: protein, fat, carbohydrates. IIFYM dictates that as long as you fulfill the energy needs of your body, you can obtain calories from any food source. Let’s face it: your body needs a certain amount of protein, carbohydrate and fat, along with fiber and micronutrients such as vitamins and minerals in order to function optimally, but it doesn’t scrutinize every macronutrient gram as it is thrown into the body. On the other side of the coin, it is also important to bear in mind that most proponents of IIFYM do not consume large amounts of junk food either. As long as quality protein is consumed in adequate amounts to contribute to muscle growth and repair, along with micronutrients and dietary fiber to support normal digestion, it shouldn’t matter if a small percentage of caloric daily intake is obtained from discretionary or junk food items.

My personal opinion is that the quality of carbs still should come into play if you are employing an IIFYM approach. However, if the majority of carbs comes from quality sources such as oats, sweet potatoes and brown rice, a small amount of junk carbs (cookies, Pop Tarts) shouldn’t tip the balance too much. I am a fan of carb BACKloading and believe the largest insulin spike should come at night before you sleep, since you will be fasting for several hours.

I know some of you are still reading this with great skepticism and want to hold onto your six boring meals of tilapia and green beans every day, refusing to accept the concept of loosening the reins a bit and actually enjoying a variety of foods. IIFYM doesn’t mean that you lose control and eat whatever you want, whenever you want. What it DOES mean is that foods will no longer be forbidden or “bad”, and that you can actually consume them on a fairly regular basis as long as you keep track of your daily nutrient intake.

The main drawback of IIFYM is that you must track your food intake, which in a sense is another form of food fixation. However, there is a greater chance that you will meet your body’s nutrient needs than if you follow a cookie cutter, calorie restricted, orthorexia lover’s contest prep meal plan. When clean eating is followed 100% and the majority of food sources are banned, caloric restriction is almost inevitable. Such caloric restriction, when practiced for an extended period of time, will cause fat loss to stall and metabolism to slow down.

How about if you met your macronutrient needs without having to banish most foods from your diet? So many people in the world of fitness suffer from orthorexia, a psychopathological condition in which foods are labeled as “good” or “bad”, and in which individuals become socially isolated over their need to eat “correctly”. I have seen so many competitors struggle with an increasing difficulty in losing fat, so their coaches restrict their calories even more and ban more foods from their meal plans. Fruit, healthy fats, and healthy carbs are stripped away in an effort to lean the competitor out. Another thing to consider is what food deprivation does to people. If a food is “bad”, suddenly the temptation to indulge in that bad food is intensified.

You might want to consider trying IIFYM if you are in a slump with your current meal plan. You may feel like a hamster on a very boring and restrictive “clean eating” wheel in which you are only allowed to eat very specific foods in certain combinations. For some of you who have been doing this incessantly for years, you may have noticed over time that it has become more and more difficult to lose weight. Your meal plan is probably VERY rigid and VERY boring, consisting of foods you are probably so sick of that if you never had to eat them ever again, you would rejoice in the streets for days. Give IIFYM a try. You might be pleasantly surprised at how your body responds.

What’s The Difference Between Cocoa and Cacao?

Some of you might believe that cocoa and cacao are the same thing, but that’s definitely not the case. Here’s the deal: if your chocolate bar is made with cacao, you’re about to dive into a true antioxidant-rich superfood. However, if it’s made with cocoa, you’re not getting nearly the amount of health benefits you would with the cacao-derived treat.

The big difference lies in the processing of the cacao bean. If the bean is high-heat roasted, then you have cocoa, NOT cacao. Cacao is never roasted, but kept in its raw state, then cold-pressed to extract its healthy goodness and preserve its nutrients. In addition, the intense dark brown color of cacao is quite distinctive from its much lighter cousin, cocoa.

Another reason why cocoa-based products get a poor nutritional score is because the big chocolate manufacturers throw in substances like soy lecithin, high fructose corn syrup, and vegetable oil. Candy bars are notorious for this, and as a result they should be avoided like the plague. Your best bet is dark chocolate, because it has a high cacao content. The higher the cacao percentage, the healthier it is. Make sure you look for CACAO and not cocoa on the wrapper!

The Importance Of Iodine

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There is a rather insidious mineral deficiency which happens to run rampant in our society, and which negatively impacts the function of an endocrine gland which gets a lot of attention: the thyroid. The mineral I am talking about is iodine, and chances are that you are deficient in it.

The thyroid gland cannot synthesize thyroid hormones without iodine, so if your iodine stores are negligible, you have been doing your thyroid gland a major disservice. Add a stressful lifestyle to the mix, and you pretty much have locked in significant issues with thyroid function.

You might argue that you use sea salt, and since the sea contains most of the earth’s iodine, doesn’t that count? The problem is that most of the iodine is lost during the crystallization process. And forget about Morton’s Iodized Salt. The amount of iodine in that product is so small that it wouldn’t even begin to address a deficiency.

If you’re a health “nut” and have banned gluten-containing foods from your diet, that means that breads which may offer a decent source of iodine are no longer options for you. Those of you who are exercise fanatics (and yes, I am one of those people for sure) excrete quite a bit of iodine through your sweat, and if that iodine isn’t somehow replaced, you are going through each day in a state of severe iodine depletion. Another significant factor in the development of iodine deficiency (which, by the way, affects about 75% of the population) is the fact that people with cardiovascular issues are advised to limit their intake of salt. If you are a fitness person, especially if you compete, you probably avoid salt like the plague, which is not a good thing for your iodine stores or your thyroid function.

Dr. David Brownstein, who wrote a brilliant study called Iodine – Why You Need It And Why You Can’t Live Without It, claims that optimal health is not possible if someone has an iodine deficiency. Over time, the suffering thyroid gland can impact heart health, and can be implicated in the progression of certain types of cancer.

Symptoms of iodine deficiency include fatigue, dry skin, brittle hair, constipation, or depression. If you have a few stubborn pounds that you can never lose despite every intervention, or if you have water retention issues, low iodine levels may be the culprit.

Whatever you do, though, don’t pay attention to the RDA guidelines, because they are too tiny to make any difference in your iodine stores. The best dosage I recommend is 6.25 milligrams daily for several weeks, then taper off gradually (every other day for a week or two, then every two days, then stop). Beware of any bowel overactivity or acne breakouts, as those can be indicative of iodine intolerance. If you have any major medical issues, seek the advice of your physician before embarking on an iodine replacement regimen.

If you don’t want to take supplements, you can eat kelp snacks or seafood. Another important thing you can do to maximize the availability of iodine stores in your body is to avoid consumption of soy products, which block iodine absorption.

When The Hunger Beast Strikes

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Every once in a while, I will experience hunger that never seems to subside, no matter how much I give into my body’s insistence on foraging for food throughout the day. Since this type of insatiable hunger is exceedingly rare for me, I generally will allow myself to indulge in greater amounts of fuel than what I would normally eat. I usually take strong hunger impulses as a sign that my body actually needs the fuel, and that I might be lacking in some nutrient. Sometimes a killer leg workout will spark this mad hunger, and other times it might be a cleaning spree which causes my appetite to ramp up.

I almost relish the times that my body craves food like this, because I am usually not too excited about food. When I was in my teens, I went through anorexia, and feared many foods. Though I became a bit of a foodie in my twenties, exploring gourmet foods whenever I could, I had to adopt an “eat-to-survive” attitude once I reached my thirties, as a result of the rigorous medical training I underwent. During medical school and internship, I lived by the credo, “Eat when you can, use the bathroom when you can, sleep when you can”.

Then in my forties, the world of competing caused me to fall in love with some of the foods which I had demonized back in my teens. Though I rarely cave into the powerful lure of chocolate, desserts, pizza, and fried foods, I definitely learned to appreciate them during my competitive years. These days, I can stock chocolate, nuts and nut butter in my house without fear that I will go hog wild constantly and consume them all in one sitting. They are even relatively safe when the hunger beast strikes.

When I experience hunger which I cannot satisfy, I do NOT turn to unhealthy foods. Instead, I keep eating clean meals like chicken and green beans. However, I will often feel just as hungry after eating a meal as I did when I reached for the meal in the first place! When that happens, I will wait about a half hour, then snack on something relatively healthy, such as a small handful of almonds, or some lowfat cottage cheese, in hopes that my hunger will abate.

However, all bets are off if the hunger beast is around on my carb spike day! There have been numerous times in which the two have coincided, and during which I have allowed myself to eat pasta, bread, a large amount of rice, or some other carbohydrate rich food. The aftermath of such a carb bump is that my weight will actually DECREASE 2 or 3 pounds the next morning. This is one of the reasons why I encourage clients to have a moderate bump in calories and carbs every now and then, to spark the metabolic furnace.

As long as the hunger beast comes around only rarely, and you are in tune with your body’s needs, you should be able to indulge it without any issues.

Nutrient Timing

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If you are at all interested in optimal fitness, you need to be aware of what nutrients your body needs in order to build muscle and metabolize fat as well as optimize performance. This is better known as nutrient timing. Proper timing of the foods you eat will support hormone function and promote a lean and muscular physique, while eating the wrong foods at the wrong time will trigger fat deposition, loss of muscle, and longer post-workout recovery times.

When nutrient timing comes into play, the goal is to shift body composition so that fat loss and muscle gain are optimized and glycogen stores are maximized. Such shifts have long-standing health benefits which can effectively prevent development of major diseases such as diabetes and high blood pressure. One caveat is that consuming excessive amounts of food will result in fat gain regardless of nutrient timing.

During training days, you should consume higher amounts of protein and carbohydrate and decrease your fat intake. The general rule is to consume about 1 to 2 grams of carbohydrates per pound of body weight, with most of your carbs consumed post-workout. On your rest days, you should consume higher fat and protein while dropping your carb intake to about 0.5 grams per pound body weight. The rationale behind this is that you want to encourage higher insulin levels post-workout, but lower insulin levels at all other times.

You may want to bump up your carbohydrate intake a bit throughout the day if you are looking to gain muscle, since insulin stimulates growth or anabolism. You can also ingest carbs throughout the day if you are already lean and just want to maintain. However, if you are looking to lose body fat, you need to consume most of your carbs during and post-exercise, and consume mainly protein and fat during all other times.

Oatmeal…For Your Houseplants?

I love this recommendation which Tess Panzer makes on her article, “3 Easy DIY Ways to Rescue Your Dying Houseplants” on Yahoo! Makers! She suggests giving houseplants a dose of dry oats every month to provide nutrients. Fantastic!

Original post: https://www.yahoo.com/makers/3-easy-diy-ways-to-rescue-your-dying-houseplants-164754287.html?soc_src=mail&soc_trk=ma

You know how a big bowl of oatmeal in the morning makes you feel like you could tackle anything? It makes you stand up taller, think harder, and focus more clearly. Well, your plant feels the same. Adding oatmeal to your plant’s soil gives it a burst of nutrients, including iron and phosphorous, that will help plants flourish.

Materials:

2-3 tablespoons Oatmeal
Instructions:

1. Add 2-3 tablespoons of oatmeal to the soil of your plant and water.
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2. Repeat every month.
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Could You Be Undernourished?

Bodybuilder-FoodOriginally written for and published by sportsnutritionsupplementguide.com

If you are a fitness fanatic or competitor, you may assume that you are adequately nourished because you practice clean eating. However, that might not necessarily be the case. Shockingly, many people who are in the fitness world suffer from under-nutrition as a result of consuming limited types and amounts of foods in an effort to reach a super lean state. Think about it: if you are limiting caloric intake during a contest prep phase, have eliminated foods which become demonized during prep such as fruits and peanut butter, and aren’t supplementing your body with the nutrients it needs, then you are probably undernourished. Such nutrient deficits can have a serious negative impact on your health if practiced for an extended period of time.

Under-nutrition is a nutrient or energy deficiency, while malnutrition can represent either a deficiency or an excess of nutrients. Some individuals (especially women) in the fitness world continually follow meal plans which are unbalanced and extremely low in calories and are thus chronically undernourished. Such a state of deficit can be amplified if certain medical conditions such as leaky gut are present, because whatever nutrients are supplied to the body might not be absorbed properly.

Mild cases of under-nutrition are often symptom-free, while more severe cases are usually symptomatic. Some deficiencies can cause permanent damage to the body, for example, blindness with severe vitamin A deficiency. Typical symptoms of under-nutrition vary based on the specific deficiency, but can include:

Joint and bone pain
Ringing in the ears
Difficulty breathing
Poor night vision
Sores at the corners of the mouth
Muscle weakness
Impaired immunity
Fatigue
Delayed wound healing
Dry skin and hair
Bleeding gums
Skin rashes
Easy bruising
Digestive problems
Dizziness
Irregular or halted menstrual periods
Depression

It can be difficult to determine whether a symptom is reflective of a nutrient deficiency or some other cause, but if your diet is restrictive, there’s a decent chance that a nutrient deficiency is to blame. The following nutrients are being highlighted here because they are most likely to be lacking in a fitness person’s diet.

Vitamin D3: The majority of the U.S. population is deficient in this vitamin, which is not only important for bone health but also reduces the risk of heart disease, type 2 diabetes, and many types of cancer. Here’s the challenge: very few foods contain vitamin D3 (egg yolks, fatty fish like salmon), and the skin only makes vitamin D3 in response to exposure to sunlight. Common symptoms of vitamin D3 deficiency are muscle aches and joint pain, both of which could mistakenly be brushed off by bodybuilders as the consequence of heavy lifts at the gym. If you want to supplement with vitamin D3, take 5,000 mg per day.

Calcium: Have you ever gotten a mad craving, especially in the middle of contest prep, for fatty foods or soda? Both cravings can be a sign of calcium deficiency. Calcium is essential for formation of healthy bone tissue and plays a vital role in nerve impulse conduction. Because the typical fitness meal plan excludes dairy sources, a calcium deficiency can sneak up on fitness people. Take 500 milligrams twice daily.

Iodine: This element is essential for the production of thyroid hormones. Main dietary sources of iodine include table salt, eggs, seafood, and dairy products. However, table salt is avoided by most fitness people, as are dairy products, increasing the risk of developing an iodine deficiency. Ironically, though sea salt provides many of the minerals which are missing in table salt (such as magnesium and potassium), it also potentially creates iodine deficiency since it is not fortified with iodine.

It may be difficult to tell if an iodine deficiency exists in the early stages because symptoms don’t surface until the thyroid gland reacts to the lower iodine levels. By that time, the symptoms of hypothyroidism have usually kicked in, such as fatigue, constipation, dry skin, depression and weight gain. The good news is that iodine supplements are available. Iodine deficiency can also be remedied by consuming seafood, kelp and meat products.

Magnesium: Have you ever noticed that your cravings for chocolate are intensified as you get closer to a contest date, or right before you ladies hit “that time of the month”? Chocolate cravings are a common signal that the body is deficient in magnesium. Deficiencies of this important mineral are quite common among regular folk and bodybuilders. Magnesium is important for hundreds of bodily functions, has a calming effect, and keeps the digestive tract moving optimally. It also has a protective effect against high blood pressure. If you prefer to supplement magnesium with a tablet, take 400 mg at night. If you prefer food sources of magnesium, almonds are an excellent source, providing 80 milligrams per ounce. Spinach, legumes, seeds, unrefined whole grains, and cashews are also good sources of magnesium.

Potassium: Lack of this mineral can wreak havoc on contest prep since it is excreted during the diuresis phase of most contest prep regimens. Potassium is present in every cell of the body, is essential for energy production, guards against high blood pressure, and maintains fluid balance. Daily needs range about 5,000 milligrams daily, and can be obtained from fit-friendly foods like spinach, sweet potatoes and broccoli, but during final week prep, the loss of potassium during the water-shedding phase must be compensated for in order to avoid cramping, weakness, tingling, numbness, nausea, vomiting or palpitations. Severe potassium deficiency can be life threatening and must be corrected quickly.

Zinc: Some women have intense food cravings right before their periods which can be a sign of zinc deficiency. Zinc plays a vital role in cell division, DNA synthesis, immune system function, and protein synthesis. A deficiency of zinc can result in hair loss, skin rashes, frequent colds and other infections, insomnia, loss of taste or smell and decreased libido. If you prefer to obtain zinc from food sources, turn to red meat, wheat, oats, eggs, nuts, peas, and leafy green vegetables. Otherwise, a 50 milligram daily supplement will suffice for most individuals.

One More Thought On Muscle Loss And Aging

I posted an article several days ago which discussed the interventions which can be practiced by older individuals to maintain muscle mass. In that article I discussed the importance of weight training, consuming adequate protein, and adding certain supplements which can reduce inflammation. A critical component in maintaining optimal function of the body at the cellular level is ensuring that micro-nutrient needs are met, i.e., meeting the body’s vitamin and mineral requirements. Given the fact that numerous nutrient deficiencies are increasingly common (such as magnesium, vitamin D3, calcium), supplementation with high quality products can often make the difference between a healthy state and one riddled with illness.

One sure way to meet micro-nutrient needs each day is to take a multivitamin/mineral supplement. I recommend taking a multivitamin which is dosed several times a day because the chance of optimal absorption is much greater than once-daily dosing. My favorite is SWAT Fuel’s .40 Caliber, because it delivers high bioavailability on a three time dosing regimen each day and is suitable for everyone, but it is especially great for individuals who tend to experience intestinal discomfort from multivitamin formulas.

You can order .40 Caliber directly from the website: http://swatfuel.com/products.aspx

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The Benefits Of Fruit

FruitFruit has gotten a bad rap recently in people’s efforts to eradicate sugar from their diets.  However, I strongly believe that this is a big mistake.  Fruits are low-calorie and (with the exception of avocados) low in fat, and are plentiful in vitamins and soluble fiber.  Soluble fiber aids the body in ridding fats and cholesterol from the body as well as ensuring regular transit of food particles in excretion.  In addition, fruits offer antioxidants which protect the  body from oxidant stress and many diseases, as well as boost our immune response.

I especially love blueberries as they contain a special type of antioxidant known as anthocyanins.  In fact, all “blue” fruits (blackberries, acai, mulberries and black grapes contain these powerful antioxidants just underneath their skins.

Here is a list of some of the most popular fruits along with their associated health benefits:

APPLE:  Apples are packed with soluble fiber and are high in vitamins.  Due to their high fiber content they can be excellent aids for individuals who suffer from constipation.

BANANA:  This fruit is well known for its high potassium content.  Those who have issues with high blood pressure might want to make bananas a regular part of their meal plans in order to manage their pressure issues.

BLUEBERRIES:  As stated before, blueberries are one of my favorite fruits because they offer so many health benefits.  This fruit is ranked number one in antioxidant activity and may help to lower the risk of developing neurological disorders such as Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s.  They also freeze very well.  In fact, not too long ago I was in the habit of purchasing large batches of blueberries, then freezing them for use in my morning oatmeal.

CRANBERRY:  This extraordinary fruit prevents bacteria from adhering to the bladder wall and in so doing can be very effective in preventing urinary tract infections from developing.  I recommend the extract or juice to women who are prone to frequent urinary tract infections as it minimizes the chance of developing infections.  Cranberries have a strong antioxidant effect as well.

PINK GRAPEFRUIT:  This fruit is very high in a form of soluble fiber known as pectin, which can help to lower cholesterol.  It also is rich in lycopene and flavonoids, which may have a protective effect against certain types of cancer.  Beware of this fruit if you take cholesterol-lowering statins or some other medications, as grapefruit can interfere with some medications.

KIWI:  This strange, beautiful, tart fruit is packed with vitamins C and E, has 3 grams of fiber in one fruit, and is also rich in potassium and magnesium.  In fact, kiwi has more vitamin C than oranges do. 

MANGO:  This fruit has ample amounts of lutein and zeaxanthin, which have a protective effect on vision and can reduce the risk of age-related macular degeneration, which is the leading cause of blindness in adults.

ORANGE:  Oranges are rich in folate, an essential substance which helps to prevent neural tube defects in unborn infants and which also has a protective effect against the development of high blood pressure in women.  It is also rich in vitamin C and fiber.

PEAR:  Pears contain a lot of soluble fiber and for this reason can be very effective in relieving constipation.

PINEAPPLE:  This tropical fruit, besides containing large amounts of vitamin C, contains an enzyme known as bromelain which assists in breaking down protein and facilitating digestion.  Bromelain also has wound healing properties, helps to prevent blood clots and inhibits cancer cell growth.  Pineapples also have anti-inflammatory properties which can help to alleviate arthritis pain.

POMEGRANATE:  This fruit is rich in antioxidant tannins which have a demonstrated protective effect on the heart.  Individuals with high blood pressure or risk of heart attack will benefit from ingesting this fruit on a daily basis.

PRUNE:  Prunes are very high in sorbitol which has a mild laxative effect, so the old wive’s remedy of drinking prune juice for constipation was extremely valid.  This fruit is also very rich in boron, a mineral which may help prevent osteoporosis.

RASPBERRY:  Raspberries are rich in folate, magnesium and ellagic acid, an antioxidant which may help to prevent cervical, esophageal and colon cancer.  They also provide large amounts of fiber, as well as vitamins A and C.

STRAWBERRY:  Strawberries are packed with vitamin C, fiber, folic acid and potassium.  They also have a protective effect against carcinogens.

I realize that many people are not able to locate the fresh varieties of fruits throughout the year, so I want to call attention to the varieties of fruits which are available frozen.  Dole offers the following fruits in frozen versions:

  • Apples
  • Bananas
  • Blackberries
  • Blueberries
  • Cherries
  • Cranberries
  • Mangos
  • Mixed berries
  • Papaya
  • Peaches
  • Pineapple
  • Raspberries
  • Strawberries

Frozen fruit is picked, washed, peeled, cut and frozen immediately in order to retain the bulk of its nutritional value.  When you are ready to use the fruit, you can either thaw it at room temperature or lightly defrost it in the microwave, though I strongly prefer room temperature thawing.

People who compete may have adopted the attitude that fruit is a big no-no, as they believe the fructose in fruit will potentiate fat retention.  However, if you consume small portions with meals, especially with your post-training meal, there is no way that you would consume enough to create such an issue.  I strongly disagree with the mindset that fruit consumption should be eliminated during contest prep, as this robs the body of powerful antioxidants and deprives a competitor of natural sweetness, which could result in strong cravings for sweet items which are made with sucrose or artificial sweeteners.  If you are extremely concerned about consuming too much fruit, try a small portion (1/4 to 1/3 cup of fruit in the morning with your first meal, and the same portion size with your post-workout meal. 

You might find it challenging to consume fresh fruit on a regular basis, and if so, you might not be incorporating vital nutrients into your diet on a daily basis. I recommend taking a multivitamin several times a day to optimize absorption, and my favorite is SWAT Fuel’s .40 Caliber. SWAT Fuel’s .40 Caliber Multivitamin delivers high bioavailability on a three time dosing regimen each day and is suitable for everyone, but it is especially great for individuals who tend to experience intestinal discomfort from multivitamin formulas.

You can order .40 Caliber directly from the website: http://swatfuel.com/products.aspx