All posts in Vitamins and Supplements

Multivitamins: Bridging the Nutrient Gap

A recent study that followed women for more than 20 years reports that women who took multivitamin-mineral supplement for three years or more were significantly less likely to die from cardiovascular disease.

Simply put, multivitamins are dietary supplements that come in tablet, capsule or pill form and provide you with an array of essential vitamins and minerals.

As it currently stands, more than half of all American adults take multivitamins or other dietary supplements, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Though experts say food is still your most important source of nutrients, they also say meeting daily dietary needs is vital to long-term health. Supplements can help you fill in nutritional gaps.

Most nutritional needs can be met through a healthy, balanced diet, but many women, especially older women, can benefit from a good multivitamin.

The multivitamin should contain:

  • Calcium
  • Vitamin D
  • Iron
  • Folic Acid
  • Beta-carotene
  • B6 and B12
  • Omega-3 fatty acids

If you’d like to know more about multivitamins – what they can AND cannot do – WebMD has a page that can serve as a great resource.

Of course, before you begin taking any vitamins, consult your doctor. You never know how your pre-existing medical conditions or current medications will affect how your body responds to multivitamins.




When Should You Take Your Supplements?

Sometimes your healthcare provider gives you a nutritional supplement that they say you need and nothing happens.  A classic example is someone who has low levels of vitamin D that doesn’t improve after months of therapy.  One reason for this, according to a small but striking study at the Cleveland Clinic Foundation, is that some vitamin D resistant people are taking vitamin D supplements on an empty stomach or with a small meal, usually breakfast or lunch.

Twenty five people participated in the study, 17 of them were instructed to take the same supplement they had been taking with their largest meal of the day, usually supper. After 2 to 3 months, taking the same vitamin D supplement with the “largest” meal of the day, researchers found that serum vitamin D levels had increased on average by 56.7%.  This magnitude of increase was seen across a wide range of vitamin D dosage.

Vitamin D is fat soluble and generally it is recommended that it be taken with a meal containing fats. However, based on this study, it may be best to take vitamin D with your largest meal of the day, which is likely to contain the most fat.

As people age and their digestive track becomes compromised, the ability to secrete digestive enzymes decreases, especially HCL. Also digesting food takes energy and if someone has been ill for a prolonged period of time their digestive capacity is further reduced. So keep in mind, if you have a weakened immune system you may have difficulty absorbing all nutrients even if they are taken at the largest meal.

Fat soluble vitamins, such as A, D, E, K as well as Coenzyme Q10, must be emulsified by either bile or pancreatic enzymes. But what if your liver is under-performing due to toxic over-load, fatty liver or if the bile is not stored properly and released due to gall-bladder removal? That may also lead to reduced absorption.  You may need to take digestive enzymes with your supplements to help with your nutrient absorption.


Natural Ways to Reduce Stress

At least 80% of all visits to doctor’s offices are for symptoms that are in some way related to stress.  In our world we are exposed to so many stimuli at such a high rate of speed:  decisions need to be made, data needs to be processed, differences in opinions need to be dealt with, disappointments occur on a daily basis, deadlines need to be met, relationships need work, and delays are all around us.  Regardless of all of this, we are expected to be at the top of our game.  Most of us hover in and around warp speed just in our daily lives, but then factor in some of the factors I just mentioned and we have a recipe for overload.

Fortunately, there are many things we can do nutritionally to limit the negative effects of stress.  Now, I could “go off” about the effects of refined foods and sugar laden drinks, but most of you know those effects.  Instead I’d like to remind you of other natural solutions that help with stress, particularly short term stress.

A research team at Nancy University in France noted the calming effects of breast milk on babies and theorized that there was some “anti-anxiety” factor in breast milk.  The university team was able to isolate specific bioactive peptides from milk that have anti-anxiety activity.  Several double-blind placebo controlled human trials done on this all natural milk protein peptide demonstrate significant anti-anxiety activity.  This particular peptide is called a decapeptide.  A decapeptide is just a tiny fraction of the large milk protein molecule which means people with milk sensitivities can usually take this product safely.  In a 15 day trial, a number of physical parameters were measured “pre and post” stress.  They all improved compared to controls.  In the milk peptide group, heart rate, blood pressure, and ACTH levels all normalized.  In addition to significant reductions in stress biochemistry, the study also measured the perceived stress of the test subjects.  After 15 days, subjects taking the milk peptide reported better sleeping and better perception of how their lives were progressing.  This is important because both the physical markers associated with stress and the subjective measures were both positively affected.

There are also a number of herbal remedies to help diminish stress.  Here are just a few you may want to check out:

  1. Siberian Ginseng:  Supports the health of the adrenal glands and bolsters the body’s immune system.  It also improves athletic performance and mental alertness.
  2. Kava-Kava:  Calms the nerves and helps you “take the edge off”.  It relaxes tight muscles and helps to relieve pain as well.  It works without the loss of alertness that accompanies sedative medications and without the side effects associated with common anti-anxiety drugs.
  3. Valerian Root:   Soothes anxiety, relaxes tight muscles and relieves pain.  It does have some sedative properties so you may want to take this is the evening and take something like Kava-Kava during the day.
  4. Schisandra berry:  Act as a general tonic and counters fatigue.  It helps improve work capacity and mental efficiency, tones the nervous system and increases endurance.
  5. Reishi:  Helps calm anxiety, eases insomnia and tones the immune system
  6. Gotu Kola:  Rejuvenates the nervous system and improves mental functions such as memory.  It improves the ability to cope with stress and fatigue and relieves anxiety.
  7. Ashwaganda:  Enhances the body’s ability to cope with stress and generally enhances mental acuity, reaction time and physical performance.
  8. St. John’s Wort:  Eases mild and moderate depression.  It also eases premenstrual tension and anxiety and helps relieve nerve or muscle pain.
  9. Passion Flower:  Decreases anxiety and induces sleep.  It’s a toning and strengthening herb for the nervous system and a helpful remedy against worrying, particularly when an overactive mind interferes with sleep.
  10. Chamomile:  Calms the nerves and gently aides sleep.  It is also anti-inflammatory and anti-spasmodic.
  11. Lavender:  Just its smell can calm and relax you.  It can also help ease headaches and relax tight muscles.

We all know that many drugs like benzodiazepines used for anxiety management have side effects like dependence issues, tolerance issues, and memory loss.  So you may want to consider using natural substances that are not habit forming, take the edge off, and in many cases allow people to get a good night’s sleep to reset their system for the next day. You want to make sure you address any underlying causes for prolonged stress, but sometimes we just need to break the stress cycle.


Dietary Supplements to Help Bone Health and Retard Osteoporosis

Even though osteoporosis is a largely preventable disease through diet and exercise, osteoporosis and its complications are now considered by the World Health Organization to be the second-leading health care problem, behind only cardiovascular disease.  Osteoporosis is a condition that breaks down the skeleton, making bones more fragile and more likely to spontaneously fracture, especially in the spine and hip.  Bone loss can result from a variety of reasons including insufficient dietary intake of essential nutrients, pollutants, toxins, smoking, menopause, lack of physical activity and heredity.

Attempting to retard bone loss through clinical nutrition, calcium supplementation and food fortification has been shown in well-controlled clinical trials to be very effective.  Indeed, calcium has been the leading dietary supplement in bone nutrition for decades. However, scientific advancements in our understanding of bone physiology, structure and nutrient interaction has resulted in the discovery of a number of other nutrients that may play as big a role as calcium in maintaining a healthy skeletal system well into old age.

The Calcium Dilemma

Among the greatest changes in the thinking of the nutritional community over the past decade has been the re-evaluation of the importance and place of calcium in our diet and supplements. Recent studies have started to analyze the differences in the metabolism of calcium under different circumstances within the body such as menopause, a time during which calcium is not well absorbed.  These studies have led to a different view of dietary and supplemental recommendations for calcium.

The cost-effectiveness of calcium supplementation depends not only on the cost of the supplement but on how well it is absorbed.  It doesn’t matter how cheap a supplement is if most of it ends up in your toilet as opposed to your blood stream.  This also applies to milk and other milk derivatives such as yogurt and cheese.  Recent findings from human studies have demonstrated that milk calcium (tri-calcium phosphate) is no better absorbed than many other forms of synthetic calcium used in dietary supplements, including calcium carbonate, gluconolactate, citomalate, chloride, lactate, acetate and citrate.  These studies have found that the most readily absorbable form of calcium is bis-glycinocalcium taken on an empty stomach, followed by calcium citromalate taken with a meal.

The Phosphorous Problem

Eighty-five percent of all phosphorous found in the human body is in the skeleton. Although it is an essential nutrient, there is concern that excessive amounts may be detrimental to your bones. Dietary phosphorous intake has risen over the past 20 years because of its increased use in food additives and cola beverages.  In the U.S., phosphorous intake is between 1,000–1,500mg/day, well above the currently recommended level for adults of 700mg/day.  However, a series of studies from Creighton University in Nebraska has found that it is actually the ratio of calcium to phosphorus intake that is important.  These studies found that if calcium intake increases without a corresponding increase in phosphorous, the risk of phosphorous insufficiency rises and vice versa.  These studies found that your calcium:phosphorous ratios should not be higher than 1:2.  Therefore, patients with osteoporosis should have phosphorous in some of their calcium supplements.

The Magnesium Mystery

Two-thirds of all magnesium in the human body is located in the skeleton.  Without an adequate dietary intake of magnesium, calcium metabolism is negatively impacted.  Too little magnesium in your diet can lead to the breakdown of bone.  One study showed that an intake of 300-400 mg/day of magnesium in post-menopausal women resulted in a significant increase in bone density after one year.

The Fluoride Question

The issue of dietary fortification, supplementation or artificially fluoridated water is a contentious one.  There is a serious question as to whether sodium fluoride supplementation actually benefits bone health.  There is some data that suggests that fluoride is a stimulator of bone formation.  However, a large study by the Mayo Clinic showed that fluoride treatment didn’t impact the incidence of fracture rates.  Therefore, the issue of fluoride supplementation to help bone health still remains a question.

The Zinc Factor

Zinc is an important factor in the mineralization of bone.  During periods of zinc deficiency, bone density is greatly reduced, and excessive excretion of zinc is related to osteoporosis.  The times for possible supplementation with zinc are during adolescence or for those involved in excessive exercise, during a period of dietary restriction, or following periods of prolonged illness where zinc levels may be under stress due to increased rates of growth and/or bone turnover. The current recommended daily allowance for zinc is 12mg/day, but research suggests optimal bone health is better achieved at a level of 30mg/day.

The Vitamin D Dynamic

Vitamin D helps to keep blood calcium and phosphorous concentrations within the normal range to maintain essential cellular functions and to promote mineralization of bone.  As such, D3 deficiency has been shown to play an important role in osteoporosis. Vitamin D3 is synthesized in the skin through exposure to sunlight.  Vitamin D3’s biologically active form is 1-alpha, 25-dihydroxy vitamin D, and it is possible for vitamin D3 levels to be low but the active form to be within normal limits.  Because of recent advances in gene technology and the identification of the vitamin D receptor gene (VDR) that may indicate greater susceptibility to osteoporotic disease, vitamin D is back under scientific scrutiny.

Studies of supplementary vitamin D for prevention of osteoporotic fractures concluded that the effectiveness of vitamin D alone is uncertain, but it does work well in conjunction with calcium.  There is some discrepancy in how much vitamin D should be taken.  Traditionally levels between 400-600IU/day are recommended.  A note of caution:  excessive intake of vitamin D can result in low blood calcium and calcification of arterial walls and the kidney.  However, the dose of vitamin D that causes significant hypocalcaemia is highly variable between individuals but is rarely less than 1,000mcg/day.

The K Vitamins (K1 and K2)

The K vitamins are a group of napthoquinones that seem to retard bone loss in elderly populations.  Vitamin K1 (phylloquinone) and vitamin K2 (menaquinone) differ regarding food sources (green vegetables and fermented products, respectively), bioavailability and intermediate metabolism.  Studies suggest that K2 may have a greater effect in maintaining bone density than K1.  However, the majority of dietary intake of K1 is lost by excretion so we need a continuous dietary supply of both forms to maintain appropriate levels in our body.

The Matter of Soy

Ipriflavone is a synthetic form of naturally occurring isoflavones found in soy.  Ipriflavone shows promise for its ability to prevent deterioration of bone density. It also appears to have a positive effect on patients who have undergone ovariectomy and steroid use.

Although calcium is still the most important nutrient for bone health, if you have osteoporosis or are predisposed to it, supplementation with these other nutrients is worth trying to help build and maintain bone density.


Papaya Promotes Healing and Aids in Digestion

Papaya is a colorful, pear-shaped fruit. Its skin is yellow, and its flesh varies from pink to bright orange.  Its center is composed of small black seeds.  Ripe, it is sweet and juicy.  Some say its flavor is similar to that of a cantaloupe.  Papaya is rich in many vitamins, minerals, nutrients and antioxidants including vitamin C, folate, potassium, dietary fiber, vitamin A, vitamin E, vitamin K, carotenes, flavonoids, B vitamins, magnesium and pantothenic acid.  Its vitamin concentration in works well to help avert the oxidation of cholesterol. When cholesterol is allowed to oxidize, it adheres to and accumulates in the walls of blood vessels.  Therefore, its supplement may help ward off atherosclerosis and diabetic heart disease.  In addition, the carotenoids, antioxidants and vitamins in papaya can help keep your eyes healthy.  In fact, they may also reduce the risk of macular degeneration, an age-related condition resulting in loss of vision.

The vitamins and nutrients in papaya are definitely beneficial, but the primary therapeutic benefit is derived from its enzyme, papain.  Papain is a cysteine protease enzyme that is well known for its various digestive health benefits.  Papaya has been used for its medicinal benefits since the 18th century, but it wasn’t until 1870 when the papain enzyme itself was discovered.  Since that time, extensive research has been performed on its health benefits.

Papaya helps sooth the digestive system

  • As a useful digestive enzyme, papain helps the stomach to break down protein easily in order to facilitate the absorption of nutrients.
  • Its anti-inflammatory effects also helps soothe the stomach when it is upset.
  • It has been shown to be effective in treating ulcers.
  • Papain has been shown to help in regulating irritable bowel syndrome.
  • It helps to facilitate proper digestion and dissolves fats, relieving heartburn.
  • The enzymes also have been effective in relieving various food allergies.

Papaya helps maintain healthy-looking skin

  • Its enzymes help to soften the texture of the skin by dissolving various fats.
  • These enzymes are also helpful in treating swelling and bruising by reducing swelling.
  • Papain is known to help in cleaning the dead cells/tissues in the body, leaving healthy-looking skin.
  • Papain is also effective in curbing swelling that develops after surgery.

Papaya helps alleviate the symptoms of colds and flu.

  • Its enzymes reduce swelling and thin mucous.
  • Studies have revealed that papain helps in alleviate sore throat swelling as well as sinus pain.
  • Various studies have proven that papain is an excellent immunostimulant, which helps in boosting our immune system.

Papaya promotes healing.

  • With its anti-inflammatory effects, it helps reduce the pain and swelling of sprains/strains.
  • It reduces the swelling and speeds up the healing of burns.
  • It helps in the treatment of cold sores.
  • It helps promote wound healing, although this has not been scientifically proven as of yet.

You don’t need to consume papain supplements to gain its benefits; these benefits can be enjoyed by eating the papaya fruit as well.  However, if you do want to take the supplements, they come in the form of tablets as well as powder.  The supplements are generally produced by collecting the latex from the papaya fruit by scoring its neck.  The latex is either allowed to dry on the fruit itself or to drip inside a container suspended from the fruit.  Following this step, it is allowed to dry until it becomes a dry and crude material.  This is followed by a purification step in order to remove all the contaminants from it, and then the purified enzyme is supplied in the form of papain tablets or papain powder.  Like any other nutritional supplements an overdose of papaya enzyme can also lead to papaya enzyme side effects, and hence it’s important to have it in smaller doses. Ideally, one should have a nutritional diet with a small amount of papaya enzymes in it. These enzymes are very effective, and even a little amount of papaya enzymes is enough to keep you healthy and for tackling various disorders.