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Energy and Allergies

Posted on : 10/9/2014

You have countless choices in energy supplements. But what works?

Medically Reviewed by Dr Rob Hicks Walk through your local pharmacy and you may think we’re in the grip of an energy crisis. There are bottles of energy supplements, fridges packed with energy drinks and shelves full of energy bars.

Energy products are one of the fastest-growing categories of dietary supplement, and it’s no wonder. Life is getting more hectic than ever and everyone wants that extra shot of energy. But do these products actually work? Experts are generally cautious. Some energy supplements may help some people to an extent, but you have to know what you’re looking for. Otherwise, Ask your Pharmacist.

What is energy - and how do supplements work?

Before you start filling your shopping trolley with so-called ‘energy’ products, consider what the word really means. What sort of energy are you looking for?

The definition of energy depends a lot on the context. You may be an elite athlete, a sprinter trying to shave seconds off your best time. Or you may be an average person just hoping to make it through a whole film without dozing off. The type of energy supplement that could benefit you in one situation may do nothing for you in another.

Moreover, the list of ingredients may not tell you much. You’ll see dozens of substances, ranging from the familiar (caffeine) to the exotic (kola nut) to the puzzling (coenzyme Q10). But unless you’re a botanist or a chemist, it’s hard to know what many of them actually do.

To make things simpler, we’ve divided energy supplement ingredients into three categories: stimulants, which rev up your metabolism; substances affecting metabolism - specifically, how your cells derive energy from nutrients; and calories, which is the basic fuel our bodies run off. They work in very different ways, although many energy products will combine ingredients from all three categories. Energy supplements: Stimulants

Herbal sources of caffeine and related compounds like guarana, yerba mate, and kola nut
Green tea
Capsaicin (red pepper)
Bitter Orange(specifically, the ingredient synephrine)

If you’re feeling groggy after lunch, what you really want is a stimulant. And for all the exotic herbs and amino acids sold as energy supplements, one of the most potent stimulants is also the most familiar: caffeine.

Caffeine is a common ingredient in many products marketed for energy enhancement. While an energy drink may include numerous other ingredients, the real boost is likely to come from the caffeine content.

Caffeine works by giving your metabolism a temporary lift. There is evidence to suggest that it can temporarily improve mental focus and, in athletes, help stave off exhaustion.

While some energy products are seen as natural alternatives to caffeine, many actually contain caffeine or similar substances with similar effects. These include kola nut, yerba mate and guarana. Green tea also provides a dose of caffeine, along with the related stimulant theophylline and the antioxidant epigallocatechin gallate (EGCG).

Ginseng is not a caffeine derivative but it may act as a mild stimulant. While it has a history of use as a tonic, the scientific evidence for ginseng as an energy-booster is patchy. Capsaicin, the ingredient that makes chilli peppers hot, is also sometimes used as a stimulant.

Bitter orange is another energy supplement unrelated to caffeine. Although it hasn’t been studied much yet, some experts are concerned about potential health risks. Synephrine, the active ingredient in bitter orange, is chemically similar to ephedrine.

This is the active ingredient in ephedra (also known as Ma huang), whose sale in unlicensed dietary supplements is prohibited in the UK. Ephedra has been associated with serious adverse reactions including hypertension, strokes and heart attacks.

So will these supplements boost your energy? Some of them, yes. Stimulants can rev up your metabolism and give you a temporary lift. Are the effects superior to - or even different from - what you’d get from a cup of coffee? Probably not.

Energy supplements: Substances that affect energy metabolism

Many energy supplements are derived from the nutrients, proteins, fats and amino acids that are already in our bodies or that we get from food. Research indicates that these compounds support energy metabolism, influencing how the body processes the nutrients we eat and converts them into energy.

But while taking these ingredients as supplements actually boost the average person’s energy levels? That depends. If you eat a well-balanced, healthy diet, you should get enough of these vitamins and amino acids from food and probably don't need supplements. Many of us have a skewed idea of what calories are. We see them as villains that lurk in our food and make our trousers too tight, but calories are also a measure of the energy potential in any food we eat. So the third category of energy supplements consists of calories - usually carbohydrates (like sugars) - which our bodies can easily break down and absorb as energy. You’ll find them in energy drinks, energy bars, energy gels and even in so-called enhanced water. Calories are particularly attractive to athletes. In the middle of a marathon, for example, easily absorbed carbohydrates can give them the fuel they need to keep going.

But will a dose of sugar in a sports drink give you a boost after sitting in an armchair all day? Maybe a little. A lot of easily metabolised sugar could raise your blood sugar and rev you up a bit, but the effect wears off quite quickly. And as your blood sugar level drops again, you’re liable to feel sleepy.

In the long-term, relying on high-calorie energy drinks and foods for a boost is a bad idea, especially if you don’t get much exercise. The calories you don’t burn off just turn to fat, and carrying around excess weight is likely to leave you feeling less energetic.

Energy supplements: Keeping it in perspective

So there you have it. Of course, if you’re suffering from serious fatigue, you should check with your pharmacist before you start taking an energy supplement. You need to rule out the possibility that a medical condition is making you tired. You should also consider the following factors:

Is the supplement you’re looking at safe for you? If you already have a medical condition or take regular medication, some supplements can be dangerous. Remember that these products do not go through the same rigorous testing procedure as medicines and we don’t know much about their risks.

How good is the evidence that this supplement works? Many energy supplements lack scientific support. If there is evidence in their favour, these studies may be small or not properly controlled. That’s not to say energy supplements never work, but proceed with caution.

Do I really need this supplement? A well-balanced diet should give most people the minerals, vitamins, and nutrients they need. If there are deficiencies in your diet, you should be asking yourself why.

Finally, always follow the recommended daily amounts or get some guidance from your doctor or a dietician.


The word allergy is derived from the Greek words "allos" meaning ‘other than’ and "ergon" meaning ‘reaction’. An allergy is caused when our body reacts violently (sneezing, coughing, congestion, headaches and rashes) when it comes into contact with an allergen (pollen, dust, pollution, etc) For example, if dust causes your system to overreact then it is said you have a dust allergy. Sinus Wars has produced an amazing natural product – SinusWars1 that can be used for both the treatment and prevention of allergies to molds, dust, pet hairs and pollen. It also helps by strengthening the immune system against future allergy attacks.

How does the immune system work?

Our immune system is usually a well-trained biological warfare unit for the body. The immune system is able to identify and destroy many foreign invaders, as well as cells that are infected with viruses. The immune system sometimes overreacts to allergen which results in a hypersensitive immune system. When this happens the immune system misidentifies a harmless substance as harmful, and then attacks the substance with ferocity far greater than required resulting in inflammation and swelling of the nasal passages and the airways. This is the reason why allergies are referred to as an immune system disorder; it raises a defense against harmless intruders. It is usually difficult to tell the difference between a cold and an allergy attack, due to the symptoms can be very similar in nature. If your symptoms persist for more than 2 weeks, you may have allergies.

General symptoms:

Although allergies can mimic almost any sickness, the following symptoms may still represent some form of an allergic reaction. If you or your child experience a combination of the following symptoms, you might have allergies:

Nasal congestion
A runny nose
Coughing and wheezing
Itchy, scaly rashes and hives
Sensitivity to certain chemicals, perfumes and paints

Don't wait or expect these symptoms to vanish. See your physician for a proper diagnosis. Common Allergens
Some of the common allergens include -

Dust mites (tiny insects that live in dust)
A protein found in the dander (dry skin human/pets)
Pollen (grass, flower and Tree)
Mold and mildew
Foods (milk, wheat, soy, eggs, nuts, seafood, peas, beans and peanuts)

Although most of us may be born with a genetic susceptibility which can be traced back to your parents, we are not automatically allergic to certain allergens. There are several factors that may result in allergic sensitivity -

The specific inherent biological genes.
The exposure to one or more allergens to which you have a genetically programmed response.
The extent and degree of exposure.

While most risk factors for allergies are out of your control, it is possible to reduce your allergy symptoms by limiting your exposure to known allergens. A healthy lifestyle and exercise can further strengthen the immune system and help avoid unwanted reactions.

We have unique and potent products to help you relieve your allergies.

Pharmacynet was established with the main purpose in mind to order online and distribute self medication and prescription medication (approximately 20 000 pharmaceutical lines) for independent pharmacies to your doorstep at affordable prices. We distribute for the following Alpha Pharm pharmacies: Bloemfontein Pharmacy, Central Park Pharmacy, Langenhovenpark Pharmacy, Medichem Universitas Pharmacy, Medichem Westdene Pharmacy, Medirex Pharmacy and Vrystaat Pharmacy. These Pharmacies are independently owned and proud themselves with excellent service

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