Vitamins -To Take or Not To Take?
Do you take a multi-vitamin? Do you take vitamin C? If you said yes, you wouldn’t be alone. Supplement sales in 2012 hit $11.5 billion and are projected to be over $15 billion by 2017. People are looking for alternatives to traditional medicine and pharmaceuticals. If you have been in my physical therapy clinic, I am sure that many of you have heard me say “I am trying to place your body in the best position to heal”. The same can be said for my thoughts on vitamin and mineral supplements. Our bodies are incredible healing machines if you simply provide it the proper environment and the proper sustenance in which to heal. This blog post has been a labor of love as it has taken over 6 months to complete. I have attempted to provide THE EVIDENCE for why and what we should take for supplements. I hope this helps! Let me know what you think.
The first thing you need to realize is that there are a lot of unsubstantiated health claims made about vitamin and mineral supplements. You have to be a careful observer when reading about the “health effects” of supplements. Most of these substances are unregulated by the FDA. There has been an advocacy movement on the part of the USFDA to protect the consumer from unsubstantiated health claims. You can read more HERE. You need to be the educated consumer before making a purchase. Websites such as www.multivitaminguide.org provides a scientific comparison of over 100 brands of multi-vitamins. Check it out and see how YOUR choice compares.
I am of the opinion that you have to base your decision regarding supplements on the best available scientific information. This may mean that you put more trust in the biological “process” than in the actual “claim”. For example, we know that free radical damage is a “process” that can be mitigated by antioxidants. However, we cannot claim that antioxidants will “prevent cancer”. Read HERE to see four scientific examples or do a Medline search for the “effects of antioxidants” and take your pick.
I think that all of you would agree that stress is a threat to a person’s well-being. Your body responds to stress by utilizing an elaborate system of enzymes, vitamins, minerals and antioxidants to defend itself. Read HERE for details. An antioxidant is a compound that neutralizes the effects of free radicals. Free radicals are highly unstable molecules that attack the nearest stable molecule and strip it of an electron. This can cause a chain reaction called oxidative stress which can cause damage to a living cell. Free radicals are a natural byproduct of cellular metabolism but their numbers may exceed the number of antioxidants when experiencing high levels of emotional OR physical stress. If this cycle goes unabated, it may lead to inflammation, infection, heart disease, or cancer to name a few. Obviously, this is a process that we want to mitigate. As a result of the depletion of antioxidants when under stress, it is recommended that you supplement or ingest fruit & vegetables not just once, but several times during the day. Yes, there are many different types of antioxidants. Vitamin E & C are probably the most popular. What do you choose as part of a dietary supplement regimen? It depends on who or what you read and how much money you want to spend. Is one any better than the other? Same answer! One way to look at it is “the more you stress, the more you need”.
The recommended daily allowance of fruits and vegetables to maximize your levels of dietary antioxidants is 5-10 servings. Rich Vitamin E sources are things such as whole grain, nuts (especially almonds!), and seeds. Read more HERE. Unfortunately, most people don’t come close to these daily allowances. One way to help neutralize the effects of free radicals is to supplement your diet with antioxidants. Vitamin E is a fat-soluble antioxidant that is very efficient at breaking the oxidative stress chain. Vitamin C is a very abundant water-soluble antioxidant. It actually plays a role in returning Vitamin E to its active form. All citrus fruits contain high levels of Vitamin C. Polyphenols are another option. They are the chemicals that give fruit and vegetables their color. They are powerful antioxidants as well. Here is one example of polyphenols and one that I take on a daily basis. Check it out HERE.
So what’s up with the fatty acids? I’m sure that you have heard of omega-3’s and omega- 6’s. Right? This is the reason some people take “fish oil”. Some of you may even remember choking down cod liver oil as a child. With the advent of preservatives and the addition of poor quality vegetable oils in our foods, our ratio of omega-6 to omega-3 has gone awry. The ratio of omega-6 to omega-3 in the typical Western diet can be up to 16:1. Not good! Human beings evolved with the ratio being around 1:1. Excessive amounts of omega-6 polyunsaturated fatty acids and a very high omega-6/omega-3 ratio can promote diseases such as cancer, cardiovascular disease and inflammatory and autoimmune diseases, whereas increased levels of omega-3 (a low omega-6/omega-3 ratio) can have a preventative effect. Omega-3 can also help regulate pain and inflammation as well as maintain proper blood pressure and cholesterol levels. Read HERE for more.
So how do you decide which omega product to purchase? You want to purchase a product that has the highest purity and potency. Purity means that it is free of toxic chemicals such as mercury and PCB’s. Potency is based on the actual amount of EPA and DHA in the oil. EPA and DHA are the essential fatty acids in omega-3. Essential fatty acids cannot be produced by the body and are “essential” to ingest. Food sources high in omega-3 are salmon, almonds, flax, walnuts just to name a few. Check on-line for a chart. You want to ensure that the product that you intend on purchasing has undergone third party testing. The International Fish Oil Standards Program at http://www.ifosprogram.com/ is one such organization. Here is an example of the IFOS page for the omega 3 product that I use. Click HERE. So how much omega-3 do you need? I have concluded based upon my research that the daily recommended allowance for omega-3’s is anywhere between 2500-10,000 mg.
Have you ever had your Vitamin D level checked? If not, you may want to. A study published in the Archive of Internal Medicine in 2009 showed that Vitamin D levels have “plummeted” among ALL U.S. ages, races, and ethnic groups over the past two decades. This is especially true in seasonal parts of the country like New England where sun exposure is variable. Because there are such small amounts of Vitamin D in food, the only 2 ways to get adequate amounts is thru direct sun exposure or via supplements. The best form to take is Vitamin D3 and it is this form that is produced during sun exposure. Over the past 10 years, several researchers have found an association between extremely low vitamin D levels and chronic, general pain that doesn’t respond to treatment. Read HERE. Go the preceding link to read several examples of people who had miraculous results in pain reduction with Vitamin D supplementation. So how much should you take? The Vitamin D council recommends anywhere between 5000-10,000 IU per day. Check out their recommendations HERE. Here is a LINK comparing options for purchasing vitamin D. I take the generic Vit D3 from CVS.
So how about the MANY other vitamins and minerals? The Vitamin D Council gives recommendations for vitamins that work synergistically with Vitamin D. They include Vitamin A, Vitamin K, Zinc, Boron and Magnesium. You can read more about them and the recommended daily allowances HERE. As mentioned earlier, websites such as www.multivitaminguide.org provides a scientific comparison of over 100 brands of multi-vitamins which should contain all the recommended daily allowances of trace minerals and vitamins. My choice is first on the list from XtendLife: Total Balance. If you need to supplement your B vitamins, another option in liquid form is called Folidreen. Taking your supplements in liquid form and adding them to juice is a great option for those who have difficulty taking pills.
I have also been questioned about and have had personal experience with urine turning a bright yellow when taking a multivitamin. Is this bad? One of the main reasons for this is the excretion of riboflavin. The Latin origin of riboflavin is from the word flavus which means “yellow” or “blonde”. Your yellow urine reveals one key thing. Your body has taken what it can from the vitamins and the rest is excreted. Read more HERE.
So why do we need trace minerals? Minerals are essentially the elements on the periodic table in chemistry class. They are things like chromium, zinc, magnesium, calcium, iron etc. They work synergistically with all of the other vitamins and nutrients that our bodies need to maintain optimal health. Ideally, trace minerals should come from eating a raw food diet. Unfortunately, researchers have shown that raw food isn’t even enough because our soils have been so depleted of these vital minerals. It is believed that 90% of people are deficient in trace minerals. READ HERE. If it’s not in the soil and it’s not in our food, then what do you do? You need to get your trace minerals via a supplement. You need to scrutinize your multi-vitamin and even look into liquid options such as Concentrace: Trace Mineral Drops.
Another example of the importance of minerals is the balance of calcium and magnesium in our systems. As stated at Natural Vitality:
“Magnesium and calcium are fundamental nutrients that need to be in balance with each other in order for you to fully experience good health. Their importance on a cellular level is critical. Calcium and magnesium are like opposite sides of a coin. Calcium excites nerves, while magnesium calms them down. Calcium makes muscles contract. Magnesium is necessary for muscles to relax. Calcium is needed for blood clotting, but magnesium keeps the blood flowing freely.”
Deficiency of magnesium or calcium can be caused by a number of stresses on the body including emotional stress, taking drugs such as diuretics, antibiotics, oral contraceptives, insulin, or cortisone, heavy exercise, diabetes, and gastrointestinal disorders. Some people may need to seriously consider supplementation when these conditions exist. Calcium is extremely important as an alkalizing agent for your body. Stress and poor nutrition makes your body acidic. Acidic environments promote cancer growth! The recommended daily intake of calcium according to the National Institute of Health is 1000mg for adults aged 19-50 and 1200 for 51 plus. The recommended daily intake for magnesium according to the NIH is 320g for age 30 and older. Don’t forget that calcium CANNOT be ingested without Vitamin D. So you may want to order the combination of the two in a product. An excellent source of calcium is coral calcium. You can read HERE for a comparison of the best coral calcium products on the market. I order mine in tablet and powder form (for my smoothies) from True Blue.
So how about your joints? What are the best supplements? You want to focus on products that deliver RESULTS! The best known supplements for joint health are glucosamine and chondroitin. But have they been shown to be effective? The Cochrane Database www.cochrane.org of Systemic Review is the largest collection of randomized controlled studies in the world. The Cochrane Review of glucosamine for arthritis looked at 4963 patients and concluded that glucosamine “failed to show benefit in pain and function”.
Products which contain esterified fatty acids are turning out to be the new gold standard in the treatment of joint pain. One example is EFAC or esterified fatty acids complex. It is comprised of a proprietary blend of esterified fatty acids that inhibit the inflammatory cascade by bonding to white blood cells and inhibiting a mediator of inflammation called prostaglandin. Double-blind studies using EFAC for osteoarthritis and periodontal (gum) disease have been published in leading medical journals including the Journal of Rheumatology and the Journal of Periodontology. It has been shown that EFAC can reduce joint and muscular discomfort within 30 minutes of topical application and within 14 days of oral consumption. You can read more HERE.
It is available in both capsules and creams in order to maximize your results. Both are available and for sale in our clinic. You can find more information at www.hopescience.com.
In conclusion, yes, I am a believer in taking supplements. I hope that this blog post has made you a believer as well. Please let me know your thoughts or your experiences with supplements. We can all learn from one another!