Author Archives: Tawnya Ritco

Your Adrenal Glands – Your Body’s Battery Pack


The two walnut-size glands that sit just above each kidney are the unsung heroes of the human body.  Our adrenal glands work as batteries to energize our body.  Although they secrete adrenalin and other hormones that play a number of essential physiological processes in our body, they are most commonly associated with their ability to help us deal with stress.

The adrenal glands are crucial to our overall health and taking good care of them throughout our life is essential as they also work as our back up sex hormones, a role which becomes even more important as we age. In addition, they help manage our blood sugar, regulating metabolism and controlling blood pressure.

So the three big questions are: How do these dynamos work? How do we know when they are not functioning?  And how can we take care of them?

How do our adrenal glands work?

The fact is, we are all subject to stress in our lives and our bodies are hard-wired with what is known as the “fight or flight” stress response. Think of it like pressing the gas pedal on your car. When there is a perceived threat, the hypothalamus sends a signal to the adrenal glands (via the pituitary gland). This causes them to release hormones such as adrenaline and cortisol. It’s what allows us to spring into action with a burst of energy during times of emergency. For many of us, the challenge to our health arises when we are faced with “chronic stress” for protracted periods of time. Sadly, with modern-day living, this scenario is all too common.

Adrenaline and cortisol are released whether we are undergoing acute stress — such as a death in the family, a divorce, surgery and other forms of trauma — or simply dealing with low-grade stressors such as traffic jams, work deadlines, expectations from family and friends, environmental stressors, or even worrying excessively or just feeling irritated.  Over time, the constant secretion of these key hormones can cause the adrenals to become stressed to the point of exhaustion. The result: Adrenal exhaustion.

Symptoms of weakened adrenals

Knowing when you’re adrenal “batteries” are low and needing a boost has become more important than ever before. Weakened adrenals can manifest themselves through fatigue and lack or energy, insomnia, irritability, cravings, weight gain and ultimately a weakened immune system.  You might find your capacity to deal with workloads has decreased and your overall tolerance to stress and capacity to handling it is much lower than it once was. People often describe what they feel as an overall unwell feeling. For some, just having enough energy to get through the day is a challenge. It’s clear that prolonged stress plays havoc on the body and can potentially create a myriad of issues that can elevate anxiety and potentially affect our working memory.

Recognizing our own self-imposed stress triggers is a huge step towards managing, reducing and possibly eliminating them from our lives. Some of the most effective stress management and lifestyle strategies include diaphragmatic breathing — also known as belly breathing.  Walks in nature, meditation and laughing have all been shown to have positive effects on calming the sympathetic system (the fight or flight response) and activating our parasympathetic system (rest and digest).

The role of adaptogens in supporting our adrenals

That’s where adaptogens come into play in mitigating the effects of protracted stress. They are a group of specialized substances that help normalize the body’s response to stress and rebalance the hypothalamic, pituitary, adrenal axis (HPA), which is the body’s central stress response system.  Adaptogens such as those found in PURICA Vitality Adrenal Support can literally help revitalize our adrenals and increase our capacity to manage the inevitable stressors that have become synonymous with daily living.

Inspired by the principles of Chinese, Tibetan and Ayurvedic medicine, PURICA Vitality is a powerful combination of two certified organic micronized medicinal mushrooms (Chaga and Cordyceps) and the herb ashwaghanda.  This powerful blend calms and restores balance within our overworked adrenal glands, enabling them to better deal with the impacts of stress. Especially when used in conjunction with some of the stress management techniques outlined above, it is one of the ways we can replenish the adrenal “batteries” and maintain the kind of energy we need to make the most of our lives, whether at work or at play.

Tawnya Ritco, R.H.N., is Director of Education for PURICA and promotes natural health education and finds inspiration in the connection between nutrition, lifestyle, and vitality.

Why Magnesium Matters So Much to Your Health


Among essential minerals, magnesium is truly essential. Always has been. Always will be. It’s only gained more prominence in recent years because of the heightened occurrence of mineral and vitamin deficiencies in many of us. They are deficiencies that have only been exacerbated in this era of protracted, chronic stress.

The important role that essential minerals in general and magnesium in particular play in the maintenance of good health is one that has been recognized for decades. Above and beyond the proliferation of daily stress in our lives, what is new is the science around just how important magnesium is to vital organs and key body processes. Combine that with the fact that over 40 percent of Canadians – two in every five of us — are magnesium deficient!

It’s such an important health and wellness issue because magnesium is crucial for the normal function of our cells, nerves, muscles, bones and heart. In fact, magnesium is a co-factor in over 300 enzymatic processes in the body. It’s not surprising, therefore, that entire body systems can be thrown off when we lack essential vitamins or minerals such as magnesium.

Magnesium is essential in the maintenance of our bones and teeth. It is vital in the regulation of muscle contractions and overall muscle function. Magnesium also helps to metabolize our food and regulate blood pressure and nerve transmission. That’s why adequate levels of magnesium are required in order to for body to produce enough serotonin naturally so as to maintain balanced mental function. Note that serotonin helps regulate our mood, appetite and sleep as well as cognitive functions such as memory and learning.

No outline of the importance of magnesium to health and wellness is complete without acknowledging that it has also been used intravenously in hospital settings to reduce the risk of death after an acute heart attack. It is also deployed in managing acute asthma in emergency situations.

Over the course of time, we have typically received the significant amounts of this macro mineral that we need from a balanced, nutritious diet comprised of nuts, seeds, dark leafy greens and unrefined whole grains. Yet many of us are falling short in this era in which the soil that is the foundation for the nutrients we consume is itself depleted of minerals. Add to that the modern issue of chronic stress, which releases adrenaline and triggers a series of metabolic processes. Since the body’s reaction to stress in turn further depletes the magnesium supplies in our body, the vicious circle continues and we become more reactive to stress.

With many people supplementing daily with 350 grams of magnesium, I recommend one teaspoon daily of PURICA Effervescent Magnesium Glycine as it is a highly absorbable form of magnesium. That’s the good news in an era where many of us are not getting the levels of this essential mineral that we need to function optimally.

PURICA Magnesium


Magnesium in Prevention and Therapy. 2015 Sep; 7(9): 8199–8226. Published online 2015 Sep 23. doi:  10.3390/nu7095388  / Nutrients

The Importance of Magnesium in Clinical Healthcare Scientifica (Cairo). 2017; 2017: 4179326. Published online 2017 Sep 28. doi:  10.1155/2017/4179326

A study on the mineral depletion of the foods available to us as a nation over the period 1940 to 1991. Nutr Health. 2003;17(2):85-115.

Subclinical magnesium deficiency: a principal driver of cardiovascular disease and a public health crisis Open Heart. 2018; 5(1): e000668. Published online 2018 Jan 13. doi:  10.1136/openhrt-2017-000668 Ter Arkh. 2015;87(9):114-122. doi: 10.17116/terarkh2015879114-122.

Magnesium deficiency and stress: Issues of their relationship, diagnostic tests, and approaches to therapy. Ter Arkh. 2015;87(9):114-122. doi: 10.17116/terarkh2015879114-122.

Magnesium for treatment-resistant depression: a review and hypothesis. Med Hypotheses. 2010 Apr;74(4):649-60. doi: 10.1016/j.mehy.2009.10.051. Epub 2009 Nov 27.

Tawnya Ritco, R.H.N., is Director of Education for PURICA and promotes natural health education and finds inspiration in the connection between nutrition, lifestyle, and vitality.

Healthy, happy hearts

Provascin is designed to protect the cardiovascular system in a host of ways.


Q. We tend to think of heart disease as something that mainly affects the middle-aged or elderly. When does someone need to start thinking about their heart health?

Jason: It’s never too early. Ideally, we’re thinking of heart health in our late teens and early 20’s when we start to reach our full height and our growth hormones start to drop. Our body is at that second stage of life. There’s a higher state of breakdown, with a lower capacity to heal and maintain optimal status of the cells and body overall.

Practically speaking, though, most people don’t wake up until they feel themselves declining—when energy levels drop and their skin and whole body starts to show signs of aging.

It’s important to note that if you tend to be a more “high-strung” person, you are typically more susceptible to heart disease because you have higher level of stress hormones circulating throughout the body. This induces the breakdown of tissue and decreased PH levels, which cause inflammatory bursts and suppression of the immune system. Potential warning signs are you find yourself easily irritated, worrying excessively or having mood swings that are not related to hormone fluctuation. The biggest sign will be low energy!

So starting as early as possible is best, but definitely as soon as you start seeing symptoms.

Q. Is heart disease hereditary? Your father had major heart surgery. How did that change how you looked at your own heart health?

Jason: Instead of being what we would classify as genetically hereditary, it’s more familial. Different families exhibit different traits. It’s related to stress and how people process potential stressors. In my dad’s family, there was a tendency to hold things in.

My uncle had a massive heart attack and died at age 42. That’s why my dad initially got tested—because there was an indication that it could be a familial problem. Sure enough, my dad had six blockages that were over 95% and they rushed him in for surgery. He had six bypasses and had a massive heart attack on the table. Given his congestive heart failure, they gave him a defibrillator and pacemaker and didn’t expect him to live past seven years. It’s now 25 years later.

Q. Was this family history the inspiration behind Provascin?

Jason: It started with my uncle dying and then my dad having his heart attack, which literally happened within just a few weeks of each other. The shock was that my uncle was in great shape! His death caused me real concern, especially given that he died so young and in such good shape. It shouldn’t have happened. I was already interested in cardiovascular health, but finding out my entire family had abnormal blood markers only increased that interest, but now on a personal level.

Q. When we refer to heart disease, what conditions are we actually talking about?

Jason: Artherosclerotic, arteriorsclerosis, valvular heart disease, cardiomyopathy, arrhythmias, coronary artery disease, heart attack, stroke, angina, arteriol stenosis, ambiliousim. These are some of the conditions that define heart disease.

Q. What are the causes of cardiovascular disease? What are the risk factors to look for?

Jason: Using an analogy, let’s say you have a small leak in plumbing that you don’t notice and then over a long period of time it creates rot and swelling on the floor. It’s the same kind of idea with heart disease. For instance, high blood pressure is an after effect of something that is already going on. The key question is where is the source? The damage is happening underneath. That damage leads to breakdown of tissue and inflammation. It happens way before the blood pressure and cholesterol issues arise. Often you don’t notice it until the damage is already done; again, just like with the leak in the plumbing.

Our culture is set for go-go-go and we are often in a state of accelerated aging due to stress. Even low-levels of stress are very common in modern-day living. Whenever you stress, you are breaking down. This can manifest itself in mild on-going stressors such as irritation, worry, frustration, blood sugar issues and mood swings. Over time these things start to become more pronounced. Subconsciously, our bodies are always in a state of tension, in that fight-or-flight state of readiness, instead of the restand- digest parasympathetic state.

We need to try to reduce and mitigate the stress response that leads to that damage. That’s why PURICA Provascin was formulated: to provide broad spectrum cardiovascular support and help to mitigate the stress response. Heart disease is not from one single cause, so addressing it from a number of different angles is what PURICA Provascin is intended to do.

Q. People often don’t think about how important cardiovascular support is. So what advice would you give baby boomers and others in terms of monitoring their heart health?

Jason: I would say to eat as many antioxidant-rich foods as you can, along with supplements. Try to change your dietary habits by minimizing those simple sugars and trans fats. I also really believe it is very important to learn how to manage stress through meditation or other relaxation techniques.

Q. As someone with heart disease in your family, what message do you want to send people who may find themselves in the same situation?

Jason: The good news is that there definitely are ways to deal with familial predisposition to heart disease. The key is the earlier the better. Heart disease is the number one killer. Signs often show up after the damage has already started. I encourage people to start changing their dietary habits to reduce those simple sugars and trans fats. Stop cooking with cheap oil. Incorporate as many antioxidants as possible. It’s certainly not always easy, but strive to “let go” mentally where possible. As I often say, it’s simple but true: ease is the opposite of dis-ease.

Introducing PURICA IonicBone Vegan Bone-building Formula

Strengthening Your Framework

Strengthening your own body foundation is much like choosing a well-built house to live in. That’s always better than being forced into one that is on a shaky foundation. Simply put, the well-built house will serve you for the long-term, whereas the other one will need constant maintenance and repairs.

This is an important consideration because up to the age of 20 we continue to build our bone mass and by the age of 30, we generally reach peak bone mass. Many of us become vulnerable to deteriorating bone health in the years that follow. That’s why protecting your bones early on and throughout your life is the key to avoiding fragile bones as we age.

The good news is that nutrition and lifestyle factors can help you build and maintain strong bones as you age. Supplementation can help bridge that gap where there are deficiencies.

For those at risk of bone loss, PURICA® IonicBone™ Vegan Bone-building Formula is designed to make a difference in ensuring optimal bone health throughout adult life, especially in seniors and post-menopausal women and those at risk of bone loss.

PURICA® Ionicbone™ supports the development and maintenance of strong bones and teeth and helps to maintain normal muscle function, metabolism, tissue formation and electrolyte balance. These are all vital for bone health and overall wellness.

Combined with a healthy diet and regular exercise, this new formulation may also reduce the risk of developing osteoporosis. It is powered by K2VITAL® and features natural calcified Atlantic Seaweed (CAS®) mineral complex, it has 32% more elemental calcium than other leading organic calcium sources.

Rich in calcium, magnesium and iron, it is free of chemicals, additives and solvents. PURICA® IonicBone™ works on the strength of 28 bone-building elements made from sustainably harvested Atlantic red algae.

The key to PURICA® IonicBone™ is how its ingredients work together in the body. The ingredients have been carefully balanced to include the most effective forms of Magnesium and Vitamin D3; both of which play a key role in calcium absorption.  Magnesium bisglycinate is highly-absorbable and crucial in the development of the bone mineral complex, as is the bioactive, plant-based Vitamin D3 from lichen.

The Vitamin K2 (Menaquinone K2VITAL®) activates the protein osteocalcin, which stores calcium in the bone mineral matrix. It regulates the usage of calcium, ensuring it is kept in your bones and not in the blood streaming through your arteries. This is critical for both bone and heart health.

With PURICA® IonicBone™ Vegan Bone-building Formula, you’re building a stronger and healthier body to help you live better – and thrive – in middle-age and beyond.

Ionicbone - Now available

Tawnya Ritco, R.H.N., is Director of Education for PURICA and promotes natural health education and finds inspiration in the connection between nutrition, lifestyle, and vitality.

Your body is your castle

Keeping invaders out by optimizing immunity

In this world in which you’re inundated daily by stress and pathogens, it’s useful to think of your body as a castle. The walls of the castle – your skin, bone and connective tissue – keep things out. Your mucosal membranes, genital urinary tract and eyes function like a moat. Inside your body is an army of cells, millions of loyal soldiers maintaining the fortress and multitasking as a self-defense system made up of archers, sentries, intelligence agents, communicators and armed guards.

With daily attacks from bacteria, viruses and parasites, imagine how taxing it is for the protectors of our castle to keep our immune system strong and active. An underactive immune system makes us more prone to colds, flu, disease and infection. If our immune system is overactive, we can be left subject to allergies and it can potentially trigger an autoimmune response. As in our castle analogy, an optimal immune system is a balanced one.

In order to keep our defenses strong, it’s become more important than ever to support our immune system. That starts with balanced nutrition and hydration. Positive lifestyle strategies can also reduce the impacts of chronic stress .

We can also strengthen our defenses through supplementation, including the use of medicinal mushrooms. That’s where PURICA medicinal mushrooms shine. Medicinal mushrooms have proven to be powerful allies in the fight against stress by working as immunomodulators; substances that bring balance or calm and activate the immune system, as needed. Medicinal mushrooms also share the remarkable qualities of adaptogens, which protect our bodies from all forms of stress. They literally help our cells adapt to stressors.

Each mushroom has its unique characteristic. If you’re low on energy, Cordyceps is a good fit. If it’s focus that you are looking for, Lion’s Mane has been associated with optimal cognitive and nerve function. If it’s stress that’s weighing you down, Red Reishi may help you bridge that gap by helping balance the system with its innate ability to calm the mind and encourage restful sleep.

If you are looking for 360 degrees of optimal health, PURICA Complete 360 is a natural winner! It is a synergistic formulation of eight medicinal mushrooms — agaricus, cordyceps, coriolus, red reishi, maitake, shiitake, chaga and lion’s mane — along with the ayurvedic herb ashwaganda to provide comprehensive immune support. Like all PURICA mushroom formulations, PURICA Complete 360 has the advantage of micronization for better absorption.

Using PURICA Complete 360 – or other PURICA immunity formulations such as Immune 7 and Prevent — can strengthen the walls in our castle and ensure that our immunity is optimized to protect us, not only throughout the fall and winter seasons, but year-round. And whenever a cold or fever breaks through, PURICA Prevail can stop viral replication and get you through to feeling better.

Tawnya Ritco, R.H.N., is Director of Education for PURICA and promotes natural health education and finds inspiration in the connection between nutrition, lifestyle, and vitality.

Pay Attention To Your Gut Instincts

Support your second brain

Tawnya Ritco, RHN

Modern gastroenterology suggests that our “gut instinct” stems from the 500 million neurons contained in the gastrointestinal tract, in the network of nerves contained in the walls of everything from our esophagus to our stomach and intestines.

That network—the enteric nervous system (ENS)—is what’s known as the “second brain.” And for good reason. The ENS is the body’s second-largest concentration of nerves behind only the brain (and ahead of the spinal column). In fact, there are 30 to 40 percent as many neurotransmitters identified in the gastrointestinal tract as there are in the brain.

The body’s prime source of serotonin

The ENS controls digestion, including everything from the biomechanics of the stomach and intestines to the alkalinity that allows digestive enzymes to work effectively. By producing 95 percent of the serotonin found in the body, this “second brain” does much to govern how we react to environmental stress. As a regulator of aging, learning, and memory, along with many organ functions and growth factors, serotonin affects our overall physical and mental well-being.

The ENS also produces as much dopamine as the brain—important for everything from motivation to motor control and the production of other key hormones. Working with the brain or independently, the ENS thereby plays a strong role in supporting the healthy functioning of the body.

Protecting the GI tract

The connectivity between the ENS and the brain is yet another reason why nutrition is so important: the healthier the digestive system, the healthier the body. More specifically, the healthier the epithelial tissue in the walls of the gastrointestinal tract, the better it will protect the nervous and circulatory systems from bacteria and viruses. The healthier the digestive system, the more likely the ENS will function optimally.

Nutrition, hydration, and supplements

Consuming fewer processed foods and eating more plant-based foods reduces the stress on our digestive system (and, by extension, the ENS). Hydration is also important, as is relaxation prior to and during meals.

The medicinal mushroom lion’s mane (Hericium erinaceus)—associated with optimal nerve health—may also assist in the proper functioning of the ENS and the way it communicates with the brain.

Nutritional supplements known to enhance tissue health are another avenue toward good digestion: by optimizing the integrity of the epithelial lining of the GI tract.

Everything from mood to decision-making can be affected when the GI tract is inflamed or otherwise under duress. Making the right decisions around healthy eating is one of the surest ways to sustain balance and good choices in every other facet of our lives.

Previously published in Alive Magazine.

Tawnya Ritco, R.H.N., is Director of Education for PURICA and promotes natural health education and finds inspiration in the connection between nutrition, lifestyle, and vitality.