From Personal Experience Springs Professional Path

by Hattie Brown (
September 2, 2004 • Roanoke Times

About Charlie Rea

Charlie Rea couldn’t stay awake even when his academic career depended on it.

He slept for hours but never felt rested, he said. Everyday actions such as using the remote control to change the television station became too strenuous for him. Attending classes was nearly impossible.

Rea’s condition got so bad at times in high school and college that he turned to a regimen of “aggressive” dietary supplements and a Cherokee medicine man to treat what doctors said was Chronic Fatigue Syndrome. But the medicine man’s advice and the supplements he took each day helped him, he said. And in some ways, they also changed his career path.

The Business

Now 32, Rea is the owner of four Nature’s Outlet stores, located in Salem, Southwest Roanoke County, Northwest Roanoke and Martinsville. He is still in the process of buying the business from his parents, but they have relinquished all control of the stores to him. Rea, of South Roanoke, said he strives to help others find ways to make themselves feel better. He stresses that he isn’t a doctor and has no medical training. Instead he considers himself to be a nutrition consultant or counselor.

He’s developed his knowledge through firsthand use of many health products and through research he’s done about which nutrients the body needs.

“I feel fortunate,” Rea said. “I have a business where customers can come back and be excited and tell how a product has had a positive impact on their lives.”

Rea’s goal is to make Nature’s Outlet “the Nordstrom of nutrition.” It shouldn’t surprise anyone that Rea ended up owning the Nature’s Outlet stores. Though he didn’t use dietary supplements and health food regularly until he was in high school, Rea grew up around the products.

The History

In the mid-1970s, Charlie Rea’s grandmother, who lived in Florida, discovered that dietary supplements and other nonprescription products eased her arthritis. Her doctors dismissed the results, but she was so pleased that she opened a store selling health products. Dennis Rea, Charlie Rea’s father, wasn’t convinced that the products worked. But after Dennis Rea talked to some of his mother’s customers during a visit, he became a believer and quit his job in sales a few years later.

He and his wife, Cheryl Rea, opened Roanoke Valley Health Foods – later renamed Nature’s Outlet – on Brambleton Avenue. Within a decade the Reas had opened Nature’s Outlet stores in other parts of the Roanoke Valley and moved the original store to its current location in Promenade Park shopping center in Southwest Roanoke County.

While growing up, Charlie Rea helped out at the Nature’s Outlet stores. But at the time he had no intention of making it his career. Rea, who studied finance and management at the University of Virginia, returned to the Roanoke Valley after graduation and worked in several sales and management positions at Nature’s Outlet stores. He moved back to Charlottesville and from 1998 to 2000 worked as a sales representative for Nature’s Way, a company that specializes in natural products.

In 2000, he started the ownership process for the Nature’s Outlet stores because his parents wanted to retire. “I just started doing it and never looked back,” Rea said.

The shelves in the Nature’s Outlet on Electric Road are packed with healthful snacks, natural hygiene products for body and face, organic foods and thousands of dietary supplements filled with a variety of herbs, minerals and vitamins.

Quality First

Rea considers himself a “gatekeeper” for which items are offered in his stores. The manufacturing of many dietary supplements is not highly regulated, Rea said, so he tries to make sure a product’s quality is as good as a company’s claims. That job has gotten increasingly hard over the years, Rae said.

When his father started the store, there were only about 3,000 supplements on the market, he said. Now there are hundreds of thousands. One of the major problems Rae finds is that companies embellish the healthfulness of their products, he said. Many popular supplements, for example, don’t contain enough of a particular vitamin to make an impact on a person’s system, despite what the labels say.

Rea and his employees try to visit manufacturing plants to learn more about a product. When companies refuse to let him visit, that usually signals a red flag, Rea said. In addition to visiting plants, he attends seminars and trade shows and invites companies to come to the stores to talk to him and employees about their products.

“They’re just up-to-date on everything,” said customer Pam Draper, a 46-year-old Southwest Roanoke County resident. “It’s fun to go in there.”

Rea frequently hears from customers that many of the supplements are too expensive.

“He compares buying supplements to buying produce; if you buy the first thing you see because it’s cheapest then you may be sacrificing quality.”

Samantha Fortune, manager of the Nature’s Outlet on Williamson Road, said she’s found that buying the more expensive, whole food, multivitamins and other high quality supplements are a better value than chemical-based supplements that cost a few dollars.

Fortune, 28, has had Hodgkin’s Disease, thyroid problems and sports-related injuries, yet she’s felt great for the past few years. She attributes it to a supplement routine that consists of about 15 products. Fortune considers it a preventive measure. “I look at it as an investment in my health and in my future,” said Fortune, of Salem. “It’s a very proactive way to approach health.”


“Rebuilding Your Gut” Recap by John Rigdon

“Rebuilding Your Gut” Recap by John Rigdon

A little over a week ago we held our first free seminar of the year on “Rebuilding Your Gut.” Our speaker Bruce Topping basically rocked it. I think everyone who attended (and we were thrilled with the turnout of 200 or so people) learned just how
important the microbiome- the evolving collection of trillions of microbial organisms living in and on the body- is to overall health.

Bruce reiterated what many of us already knew- that probiotics are the beneficial bacteria that help us digest food, utilize nutrients, and fight infection. However I learned some fascinated new bits such as gut bacteria assisting in converting inactive thyroid hormone (T4) into the active form (T3.) In fact nearly 20 percent of T4 is converted in the GI tract so an unhealthy gut could have a noticeably negative impact on thyroid function. While Bruce certainly emphasized how important probiotic supplementation is to achieving healthy digestion and immunity, he also mentioned some other supplements as well as foods that will aid in the gut rebuilding process. kombucha
For instance Betaine HCL supplementation (5-9 500mg pills a day for a month to be precise) can help reestablish stomach acidity which is essential for keeping the digestive system in good working order. We need adequate acidity in the stomach to synchronize the timing of
digestion (make sure stomach is emptied in a timely manner to prevent reflux), kill harmful pathogens we accidentally ingest, and assimilate minerals such as calcium and magnesium just to name a few.

Some other helpful tips included ingesting “resistant starches” such as organic potatoes (baked or boiled), plantains, and greenish bananas as these foods are “prebiotics” or food for the beneficial bacteria in our gut. Bruce advised to slowly introduce such foods to avoid gas and bloating.

While these were some interesting highlights, here’s Bruce’s full list of the “4 R’s” for rebuilding your gut:

Step 1: Remove Digestive Irritants: These include wheat/flour, sugar, and corn syrup.

Step 2: Re-Inoculate Your Gut: Make cultured foods at home, eat resistant starch, and take probiotics.

Step 3: Replace Acids and Enzymes: Take Betaine HCL to replace stomach acid and take a full potency enzyme supplement at the end of each meal.

Step 4: Repairing the Gut with: bone stock soup, L-Glutamine powder, okra, blueberries, Vitamin A, slippery elm, marshmallow root, red raspberry, and ginger.

Many of these products are available at Nature’s Outlet and your local farmer’s market. Give us a call at (540) 989-5109 if you have any questions and best of luck rebuilding your gut!

Favorite Bone Support

Whitney’s Favorite Product for Bone Support!

New Chapter Bone Strength Take Care

“For women at high risk for osteoperosis, this is a plant-based calcium that your body can actually ingest and apply to rebuilding bones without clogging your systems!”

From New Chapter:

Many people think that all calcium supplements are created equal. The truth is that the most common form of calcium supplement today is derived from limestone or rock. We don’t eat rocks as part of our balanced diet, so why would we choose to supplement our bone health nutritional needs with limestone?

Our bodies understand and seek whole food sources of nutrition. That’s why New Chapter formulated Bone Strength Take Care with a whole-food plant source of calcium, magnesium, and other important trace minerals.

The calcium complex in Bone Strength Take Care is derived from a specific plant form called Lithothamnion Calcareum, sustainably harvested from pristine shores along the Icelandic coastline. Much like organic vegetables, this sea plant is allowed to mature naturally and then sustainably harvested to deliver its optimal nutritional value.

Calcium must be completely dissolved in order to be absorbed. The plant-based calcium found in Bone Strength Take Care grows in a honeycomb structure and is extremely porous, which dramatically increases the calcium’s surface area. Stomach acid can then come into greater contact with the calcium, making it easy to dissolve. Calcium carbonate sourced from limestone has a much smaller, rocky surface area and is more difficult to dissolve.

New Chapter Website

*These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. This product is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease.


Natural Solution to Vaginal Dryness

Q: I suffer from vaginal dryness, is there anything I can do nutritionally to address the problem?

A: While few people like to talk about this issue, it is present in half of women during or after menopause. The good news is that there is a solution to the problem that works remarkably well. Omega-7, a beneficial fatty acid derived from Sea Buckthorn oil, is nature’s moisturizer, both internally and externally. Omega-7 provides mucous membrane hydration, helping to alleviate everything from dry eyes, mouth, and skin to menopausal vaginal dryness and digestive problems. Omega-7’s benefits even extend to maintaining proper heart function, healthy cholesterol balance, and insulin sensitivity. I recommend Terry Naturally Omega-7 because it contains the clinically proven SBA24®, where users reported an amazing 97% satisfaction rate after a month of continuous use.

Why We Love Irwin Natural’s Brain Awake!

Irwin Naturals Brain Awake

“Great product for energy, focus, and attention! Begins working within 30 minutes.”

From Irwin Naturals:

Brain Awake™* can help maximize your thinking power!* This product is scientifically formulated to boost brain function and mental performance.* It delivers key ingredients that have been shown to:

  • Promote focus and mental clarity*
  • Enhance performance on cognitive tasks*
  • Improve retention of information*
  • Increase feelings of energy*
  • Unlike many products that give you a short-term boost at the expense of long-term jitters and fatigue, Brain Awake™* delivers powerful brain-boosters AND supportive nutrients that calm and nourish the central nervous system.*

This balanced brain support product is ideal for students and working professionals… but is suitable for anyone that wants to optimize performance and productivity.* Use this product daily or as needed to enhance cognitive abilities.* Irwin Naturals Website *These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. This product is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease.