Friday, January 21, 2011

Bee Pollen

I have been weighing a heavy question recently. Should I be taking supplements or not? I have come to a couple conclusions in trying to answer that question, but they don't really help me to get closer to an answer.

* Food sources really are the best source of vitamins. A proper nutrient dense diet is really your best defense against nutritional deficiencies. But the human body is designed with all kinds of coping mechanisms to withstand food shortages and changing food sources and nutrients. But, is that enough? The body can continue functioning properly during short term nutrient shortages, assuming that your food is supplying at least some nutrients as opposed to being completely nutritionally devoid. But if we know a better way, is it WRONG to supplement? And why would our bodies evolve to need more nutrients than we could possibly eat in a day? Isn't that counter intuitive?

* Synthetic vitamins create alot of expensive pee. Many experts suggest that your average cheap multi-vitamin is not worth the money you spend on them, because you do not absorb the vitamins but rather excrete them out. I used to take Centrum or the One A Day brand. And then I got pregnant. I switched to a prescription prenatal vitamin. But both the generic and the prescription prenatal had to be taken with food. Otherwise I got a really bad stomach ache. In the back of my mind I always felt like that was a problem, a signal that this wasn't working. Our nutrition should not be making us sick. Then when I got re-pregnant a friend suggested New Chapter prenatal vitamins that you can buy at Whole Foods. They also make a basic daily multi vitamin. The brand makes daily multi vitamins that are sourced from food sources. They are also largely organic. I could take them on an empty stomach without any upset. This was good.

* I feel good when I am taking a good multi vitamin. This is my biggest reason for not just chucking the bottle in the garbage. I do actually feel better when I am taking a daily multi. I have more energy. I sleep better. And that is HUGE! This is why the debate is still open in my mind.

* Vitamin deficiencies really do affect the body's function if they continue over the long term. I feel confident that I get enough Vitamin C because I eat so many fruits and veggies every day, but what about vitamin D or B12?? Vitamin D deficiency has been widely diagnosed recently, and people are taking huge supplements of it. Yet there are also those out there that feel Vitamin D can be toxic in large amounts. And more confusing still are the folks who say that most Americans are not Vitamin D deficient at all, that we have the RDAs wrong. Or we are not properly testing. How the heck are we supposed to wade through all the conflicting information?

I have determined that I think I need a supplement. But what should I be taking? I would like to take a supplement that is absorbed completely. So I look to food sources. When I was sick a couple weeks ago I was talking to my friend who manages the turkey stand at my farmer's market. He said 'Have you ever tried bee propolis? The honey man sells that'. The honey man was right across the aisle, so I went over to him and inquired. He said Bee Propolis or Bee Pollen was a whole food source. It was just like a multivitamin except because it is food it is better absorbed. I bought some. It was pretty cheap, $3.50 for a bottle that looks like maybe a month's supply. He said to start out with a pinch and work up to a teaspoon a day. He suggested that I take my pollen by spoon and chew it before swallowing.

Well, I started with my pinch of bee pollen and I chewed it. It tasted really really gross. By the second week I was gagging on it. So I started chewing it and then washing it down with water. But even that wasn't optimal. It is weird, the pollen doesn't really taste that BAD, it is a little like honey. But something about it is really gross. Then I read on a website to place your pollen in a small glass of water at night and let it sit for about 12 hours. Then when it is totally dissolved, drink the water. I let my pollen sit in water for around 5-10 minutes and it mostly dissolved. No grossness, no gagging and I swear I felt more of the effects of the pollen. I also think this might be the only way I can take a full teaspoon of the stuff and get it down. I am now dutifully letting my pollen soak for all 12 hours as I write this. It is totally dissolved and it has been 90 minutes. My gut says you don't need to let it stand all night for good dissolution. But I am going to make it through. One benefit is that you can just make it part of your bed time routine and then just drink the stuff in the morning. I could get used to that, rather than watching a yellow glass of liquid for 90 minutes.

So what the heck is bee pollen?
It is exactly what you think it is. It is the pollen that bees collect from flowers. Bees collect the flower with the intention of taking it back to the hive and eating it. Bee pollen is also used in the production of Royal Jelly the main food source of the long lived Queen bee. So it is a great food source for bees. Bees live very short lifespans, but they have very high energy needs while they are living because they work so much. So the pollen must be very nutritious in order to keep their engines running.
Bees collect the pollen, pack it into granules and add honey from special honey sacs, and then stick the granules to their legs. Lastly, the bees add a special enzyme that prevents the pollen from germinating. When they fly back to the nest a special 'door' at the opening to the hive captures the granules and shakes them off where they are collected. The only question I haven't answered, if beekeepers are collecting the pollen which serves as bee food, are the bees starving? Is it cruel to them? I found that some Vegans do not approve of the use of bee pollen while others do. That second website site notes a survey of beekeepers in Vermont showing no cancer deaths among the group, and virtually no degenerative diseases either. It is worth a read. But...I ain't vegan.
One very cool website explained bee pollen better than the others. They mentioned that plants have evolved to attract bees. Different plants compete with each other to attract bees attention and bees are attracted to plants whose pollen will be very high in nutrients. So plants have actually evolved to become more nutritious for bees needs. And so bee pollen is an ever changing food, always becoming more nutritious
So what is in bee pollen that makes it so great? Bee pollen is high in Vitamins C and E. It is also high in B Vitamins which are important for proper sleep and day time energy as well. Also, bee pollen contains bioflavonoids which you may know to be antioxidants. Antioxidants as you may recall help to neutralize free radicals within the body. Free radicals are those yucky unstable atoms that come from rancid foods, smoke and other toxins. Remember from 11th grade chemistry that an unstable atom will do anything to become stable, including stealing an outer electron from a neighboring atom? Well, okay, I am a nerd, I may be the only one not working in science that actually remembers that. But it is true. Free Radicals want to breakdown your atoms by taking their electrons. But that sets off a chain reaction of instability in your body that is the cause of a whole host of degenerative diseases and even aging. But the more antioxidents you eat in the form of veggies and fruits and bee pollen, the better! Antioxidants "fill up" those unstable free radicals before they have the chance to cause havoc in your system. Nice.
So in short. I am really loving bee pollen. Now that I am able to consume more than just a pinch I do notice a difference. And it may have solved the supplement question for me for now. In today's modern age of nutrient compromised foods, I think maybe we need a supplement or boost, even if our ancestors didn't. But, Centrum? I am not so sure about that one. For me, I will take real food over pills any day of the week.


  1. I've hearddissolving it in warm tea is a good way of taking it. :)

  2. "expensive pee" -- made me laugh with that one!!

  3. Bee pollen is the oldest known health food known to man and contains 185 of the identified nutritional ingredients. Taking bee pollen will supply you with 22 amino acids and eight of the amino acids that are the most important ones have even higher content.

  4. Thanks! I am really liking it now that I am dissolving it rather than chewing it. It seems doable to me now!