Catherine Crandall is Amlia’s founder. The inspiration for Amlia was born from a problem ― my own health crisis. Seeking solutions, I acquired a collection of nutritional supplements and was finding it difficult to keep track of the optimal times and conditions for taking them. Then there was the matter of the voluminous research I’d amassed about particular ingredients – their potential for actually working and possible interactions. I created spreadsheets and word processing documents to help – keeping this all up to date was complicated, confusing and cumbersome.
Catherine and office dog Miss Betsy.
The Amlia app concept was sparked by a conversation that helped me to understand that I was not alone in having this problem. Every time I replenished a product, it was likely to be a new brand with slightly different dosing, or with additional co-ingredients in the bottle. I wanted to be scientific in my approach, to carefully track what I was taking and whether it seemed to work for me. When you’re working to fix a problem, a confusing solution is not useful!
I’d taken to organizing my bottles on countertops in a small room where the products were protected from heat and light exposure. Arranged by the time of day I planned to take them, this system worked pretty well, but then we moved. By now, I knew that my supplement routine was working, but that light-protected space had been replaced by a closet. I struggled to remember how to properly take my complicated supplement routine.
Our new home had an unimproved utility room and we hired a designer to help renovate the space. An entire cabinet with pull-out wire baskets would be dedicated to my supplement routine, away from detrimental light, heat and moisture. A lightbulb moment happened after the cabinet installer replaced the wire baskets I’d ordered with wooden drawers that simply wouldn’t work for me. In a meeting with the designer and cabinet company representative, I asked that the drawers be replaced with the originally ordered baskets (to better view all those bottles). My “unusual” (and seemingly somewhat excessive) supplement routine was embarrassing, yet I confessed this reason for insisting on my original configuration. I was dumbfounded when both the designer and the cabinet rep both crossed their arms over their chests and shook their heads. Laughing, they told me, “What you’re doing isn’t unusual, we see this all the time!”
A lot of our lives these days revolve around apps. We use email for work, social networking to keep up with friends and family. Messaging helps to communicate, and apps like Evernote or OneNote offer cloud space to keep track of notes, outlines and documents. A good app helps to simplify and streamline our lives. Wondering if there were an app for complicated supplement routines, I rushed to my computer to see if there was already a digital tool on the market to help people simplify their vitamin and dietary supplement activities. Nada.
The idea for Amlia was born in that moment. We have loads of ideas for Amlia’s future…detailed ingredient information, tracking inventory and product effectiveness, the potential for AI/machine learning, video consults with experts, etcetera. But to get started, we’re focusing on helping you with organization and reminders, note-keeping, and sharing what you’re doing with others.
So why did I begin taking supplements in the first place? As someone with a history of robust health, it was unexpected to find myself facing a serious medical situation that was affecting my ability to perform even simple tasks. My memory and ability to focus had begun to sputter, as if my brain were an old-time TV with a failing signal…
This situation was profound and couldn’t be ignored; I realized one afternoon that I’d been struggling at my desk ― reading a two-digit number on one piece of paper, then trying (and failing) to remember that number long enough to write it down on an adjacent piece of paper. Unnerved, I made an appointment with my doctor.
You don’t realize how much value your mind until you start to lose it. But the problem was not limited to my brain: hair loss, brittle nails, excessive bruising and other skin changes had crept into my life along with insomnia and anxiety. My annual blood work showed elevated cortisol hormone levels and I wondered if this could be a contributing factor. Whatever was going on inside me, it was a puzzle – how could all these symptoms possibly be related?
For the next three years I faithfully followed medical advice, yet my symptoms only worsened. Before I knew it, numerous medications lined my vanity, prescribed by my primary care doctor as well as medical specialists. Nothing seemed to improve my health, and with each new prescription came undesirable side-effects.
Blood draws became a regular occurrence as we searched for clues. A significant vitamin D deficiency was revealed, so I began D3 supplementation – a whopper dose of 10,000 IU for a period to get levels back to normal, and lower maintenance doses after that. Fasting blood sugar levels seemed in the normal range, but the snapshot didn’t tell us about how my body was managing glucose. One way to learn how your system metabolizes glucose is with an insulin tolerance test (ITT). My test revealed that “postprandial” (after a meal) insulin surges were clearing blood sugar from the bloodstream. This condition is called “hyperinsulinemia” (also known as “Reactive Hypoglycemia),” and creates an inflammatory environment which has been linked to heart disease, obesity and cancer.
According to “On the Brain,” the Harvard Mahoney Neuroscience Institute Letter, “Glucose, a form of sugar, is the primary source of energy for every cell in the body. Because the brain is rich in nerve cells, it is the most energy-demanding organ, using one-half of all the sugar energy in the body.” They report that “Brain functions such as thinking, memory and learning are closely linked to glucose levels and how efficiently the brain uses this fuel source. If there isn’t enough glucose in the brain, neurotransmitters, the brain’s chemical messengers, are not produced and communication between neurons breaks down.”
It seemed that the cognitive problems could be caused by insulin surges initiated by my Hyperinsulinemic state. Instead of being used for energy, blood sugar was being shuttled to fat storage, and rapid weight gain was the result. I’d never before had a problem maintaining a healthy weight, but now it didn’t seem to matter how small my portions, or how much exercise – I had gained thirty pounds in ninety days, simultaneously developing a bad cholesterol and triglyceride profile, sore muscles, stiff joints and a sluggish thyroid gland.
Insulin is produced by the body’s pancreatic organ. Why was my pancreas overactive? As I looked for answers to this question, I found research correlating inappropriate insulin production, hypoglycemia, and pancreatic tumors. Research also suggests a familial (genetic) association.
It may seem melodramatic, but as someone with a genetic background that includes multigenerational pancreatic cancer on both sides of my family, I worried that this disease would become my future if I didn’t find a way to deal with it. It’s said that while genes may make someone more susceptible to disease, they can be turned on or off by behavior and environment.
Was it possible to somehow soothe my pancreatic organ and reduce the chance of getting pancreatic cancer ― if so, how to start? I began to gather information in scholarly publications. I already knew how to read a scientific paper, having studied sciences in college. If you’re interested in this, I recommend “How to Read a Paper: The Basics of Evidence-Based Medicine” by Tricia Greenhalgh. My focus was on learning how systemic inflammation might be soothed in a natural way. I found valuable information about this in books such as “The Leptin Diet” by nutritionist Byron J Richards.
When I shared the concepts in this book with my doctor, she was flatly disinterested. I was warned that on order to remain in her practice I would have to stick with her treatment plan, which now also involved a new medication to slow my digestive processes. The side effects from that drug were embarrassing and unpredictable. Her treatment plan had not been working, and when the next recommendation was to address my memory problems with an attention deficit drug, I was skeptical. Experimenting with more meds was not what I wanted to do. The time had come to retake charge of my health – I called it quits with this doctor.
Cooking whole food meals has always been a source of relaxation and enjoyment for me, and I recognize the importance of staying active. Diet and movement would certainly be an important part of my wellness solution. I hoped that supplementing possible nutritional deficiencies while weaning myself away from medications would tip my system back to health. Wanting to focus on functional and holistic medicine approaches, I began to plan a dietary supplement routine.
With advice from an experienced Anti-aging and Preventive Medicine MD and Board-Certified Clinical Nutritionist, I now have a supplement routine that works for me. Quicker than I would have expected, my memory and focus sharpened and I could again sleep through the night. Cortisol levels normalized (I credit DHEA and pregnenolone, which I take as a compound prescription), cholesterol & triglyceride profiles improved, nails strengthened and my hair grew back.
Purposeful consumption of supplements can be tremendously complicated, but it’s important to develop an effective routine when you have a particular health concern in mind. I learned that how and when you take things really matters. Consume some in the mornings, others at midday or at night. Foods or drugs can amplify or diminish effects; taking with food or on an empty stomach can affect absorption. When quitting usage, some should be tapered off slowly for safety. Variations in formulation can serve different purposes. Everyone is unique – a supplement that may be good for me may cause an allergic reaction or not work at all for you. Taking too much of a nutrient can be as bad (or worse) than having too little in your diet.
It’s important to consider nutrient intake recommendations as provided in the Dietary Reference Intakes (DRIs), developed by the Food and Nutrition Board (FNB) of the Institute of Medicine (IOM): adequate intake, recommended daily allowance RDA, and upper limits. When possible, dosing is based on the results of my blood work with consideration given to my gender, weight and age.
My fundamental health concern – soothing an overactive pancreatic organ was the starting point. With no certainty that it would be successful, I felt that some experimentation with natural products was better than sitting around watching my health decline while taking drugs with harmful side effects.
Searching for ideas about what to take for pancreatic health, I visited science-based web sites, and read articles such as this “Advances in Nutrition” article, Vitamins and Pancreatic Cancer: a review of underlying Mechanisms and Future Applications on the National Center for Biotechnology Information (NCBI) in conjunction with the U.S. National Library of Medicine and National Institutes of Health.
My personal supplements for pancreatic health: vitamins A,C,D E, K, Alpha Lipoic Acid, Coenzyme Q10, the mineral zinc and high quality fish oil.
It is fascinating to me that supplements can be beneficial in unexpected ways. After weeks of the new supplement routine, I discovered a life-long zinc deficiency (a love for oysters on the half shell had not remedied this). White marks on my fingernail beds and flimsy nails were something I was well accustomed to. Supplementing with zinc (Zn) seems to not only contribute to soothing a troubled pancreas, but a side benefit is strong fingernails for the first time in my life!
As I continued to learn about how to consume supplements safely and effectively, my routine became increasingly complex. Then one day, that chance conversation sparked the realization that my complicated supplement use was not unusual. A consumer survey reports that 73% of US adults are taking dietary supplements. This realization was the “lightbulb” moment for me; I resolved to build a business solving problems of supplement routine complexity, sharing with others and eventually building a library of content for discovery and improved safety.
Along the way, I meet others who look to nutritional supplementation for proactive wellness, to address a disease state, for biohacking mental and physical performance, or for longevity. If any this sounds familiar, I hope you’ll join us here at Amlia.
Medical Disclaimer: Please note that I’m not making medical recommendations, simply reporting what has worked with me. The Amlia website does not contain medical advice and is not meant to substitute for professional advice, diagnosis or treatment. Consult with your doctor or find a qualified health professional for personalized medical advice. Never disregard or delay seeking professional medical advice or treatment because of something you have read on Amlia.