Well Women Guide to Vitamins Minerals and Supplements
Vitamins and supplements are a confusing maze to negotiate. I hope to throw some light on the benefits of supplementing your diet, whether you are well or not. Bear in mind, and this is most important, that supplements can be dangerous to your health as they are made in a laboratory from synthetic ingredients. There are many scientific reports that synthetic supplements can actually increase the risk of cancer rather than protecting you from it.
When we are chronically ill, specific supplements that are tailor made for our problems can often be the difference between being just “OK” or being “Brilliant” They can make a big difference.
What we do need to remember is, however, that you only get what you pay for and although they can be expensive, the high quality brands of food state supplements, are always the best and will do what they say.
It is also important to remember that the great majority of vitamins on the shelves in health food shops, chemists and supermarkets are synthetic man made products. Our body finds it hard to absorb them, therefore they are not of much use.
Here are some frequently asked questions and answers
Can I overdose on them?
Yes. There are certain ones that you should not take too much of, and possibly avoid unless there is real deficiency. One of these is Iron and bearing in mind that a lot of our food is fortified, additional Iron should be avoided unless a deficiency has been identified. It is all too easy to pick up supplements in your local supermarket and there is little regulation and control, unlike medication.
While some can be toxic in large doses, as long as the instructions are followed on the container and other supplements recommended allowance taken into consideration, like multivitamins, then an overload will be avoided
Since most multivitamins state the contents and the vitamins included, this should be checked before any additional supplements are added to the daily allowance.
Remember too, that your body has leant to cope with vitamin intake, as it is natural and something that is needed by your body, unlike alcohol and artificial additives, preservatives and colouring etc and unlike artificial drugs, and as long as you are sensible and always check the back of the bottle first, you can only optimize your health by taking food state supplements.
What are Food State Supplements - what is the difference?
We can easily supplement our diet with extra vitamins, minerals Amino Acids, enzymes etc in the form of Superfoods such as MACA, MSM, Cacao, Purple Corn powder, Goji Berries etc and these are natural but contain increased amounts of certain nutrients, hence the name Superfoods. There is much evidence to back up their claims.
We can also take supplements such as Organic silicon, MSM, Acerola Cherry capsules, Apricot Kernels, Chlorella, plant sterols and sterolins etc that are natural and help provide much needed nutrients as well as herbal preparations.
Our bodies these days are very depleted due to environmental and poor quality soil. This means that foods grown in that soil are lacking in the vitamins and minerals due to depleted soils, genetic modification, "forced" growing of crops out of season, pesticides etc.
Those of us who have an autoimmune disease or other chronic illness are often more lacking in essential nutrients than others. Supplementing can therefore be the difference between a good or poor quality of life.
It is with this in mind that we should consider certain supplements and many of them are exceedingly valuable.
Why take them?
It is now more and more recognised that we need to supplement our diets. It is always important to check the recommended daily allowance in fortified foods like cereal if it is consumed daily to make sure that topping up with supplements does not exceed this.
Vitamins and supplements can aid specific health conditions like Thyroid and autoimmune disorders who by their very nature cause certain problems that will only contribute to our condition. Therefore by supplementing, we are able to help control or even improve that conditions symptoms. Once again, caution is advised. I once supplemented with sublingual B12, and when my blood was checked, showed an alarming raised B12 level. It was because I had read that Thyroid sufferers were usually deficient in B12. However, obviously I was not one of them!! So regarding B12, please get your B12 levels measured before supplementing as it may not be necessary.
Can they help you to resist disease?
By taking regular supplements this can boost your immune system which in turn helps you to fight disease. In many cases, by correcting a specific deficiency they can be the differecne between illness and wellness.
Supplements can be from health foods and superfoods
Do Our Body’s Make Vitamins?
Our diet is insufficient in providing the right amount of vitamins that our body’s needs and since we can not manufacture them, they need to be sourced from our diet and this often being insufficient due to fast food and processing, supplementation helps us keep the balance necessary to protect us from deficiency. Some are stored in our bodies (fat soluble vitamins A, D E and K and are stored in the liver) and some are lost in urine (water soluble and therefore not stored, vitamin B complex, vitamin C) and therefore not stored. We then need to ensure that there are regular supplies. Water soluble vitamins are often destroyed in food preparation and storage. They are also destroyed if you smoke, take illegal drugs, take some regular medications, and regular consumption of alcohol.
The benefits of and praises of a daily multivitamin can not be sung highly enough. Make sure it is a food state supplement like Vita Synergy rather than a typical jar from a local supermarket.
It will help meet our basic needs and as these are changing all the time due to demands from our lifestyle and can only promote health benefits. Whether it is demands from illness, chronic or otherwise, menopause, menstruation, pregnancy, stress, bereavement, sports or whatever springs upon us, the regular taking of a multivitamin is beneficial in supporting the demands of everyday life and ensuring, in times of extra need, that our bodies are not going without. Other vitamins are generally not needed additionally unless there is a special need.
Vitamin A (beta Carotene)
This protects the immune system as it is one of the important antioxidants and helps it function more efficiently. This in turn protects us from viruses and infection and other more serious diseases. It contributes towards bone growth, cell division, reproduction and protects the membranes of the eyes as well as those of the lungs, urinary and intestinal tracts. Vitamin A can prevent acne and 10,000 IU is recommended. However, do not take more than 5000 IU if you are pregnant.
Warning to smokers regarding taking Beta carotene supplements
There is evidence that taking synthetic beta carotene supplements alone increased the possibility of developing lung cancer in some patients. This is not to say that beta carotene in the diet from food has the same effect.
Also taking anti oxidants is recommended for smokers when taken as a combined supplement (mixed carotenoids, 15000IU) and not just beta carotene alone. Where possible, it is recommended that beta carotene should come from diet rather than being supplemented. In any case, the long term best way to avoid lung cancer is to give up smoking
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and also please see this site
The B Group of Vitamins
The B group aids the nervous system and is also responsible for assisting in the breakdown of carbohydrates into energy, as well as the breakdown of fats and proteins. It is also responsible for healthy hair skin and eyes and the muscle tone of our stomach and intestinal tract.
May help maintain normal nerve function May contribute to the digestion and metabolism of proteins, fats and carbohydrates May promote healthy skin, hair, brain and nerve function.
The B vitamins work most effectively when taken together. Vitamin C is also present in this product as it prevents the oxidation of vitamins B1, B2 and B5. Why might you choose to take Vitamin B Complex Plus? If you have a demanding lifestyle with irregular eating patterns If you consume large amounts of sugar, coffee, tea and alcohol If you or your children prefer sugar and junk food If you are taking antibiotics. Antibiotics destroy the beneficial intestinal bacteria which synthesise certain B vitamins If you are elderly or on a reduced diet If you are pregnant (on Doctor's advice) or breast feeding
Vitamin B1 (thiamin)
This is necessary for the function of the adrenal gland, and immune function and the metabolism of food. B1 in conjunction with alpha lipoic acid is responsible for the regeneration of skin and blood cells and therefore if you have diabetes, pain from diabetic neuropathies can be relieved by upping your intake of B1 and alpha lipoic acid.
Vitamin B2 (Riboflavin)
Riboflavin (vitamin B2) is a water soluble B vitamin. It has a vital role to play in the oxidation process so is involved in the release of energy from food. It is needed by every organ, tissue and cell of your body every day. It also partners vitamin A in helping to provide normal vision.
Why might you choose to take extra Riboflavin (Vitamin B2)? It may aid in growth and reproduction It may help to promote healthy skin, nails, hair It may help to eliminate sore mouth, lips and tongue
Deficiency causes blindness, weakness, fatigue, crusting around the mouth, It is needed by the body cells for using oxygen and for producing energy.
This is also needed for the production of energy. It is also used for treating illnesses such as Raynauds syndrome, high cholesterol, and neurological diseases.
Niacin (vitamin B3) is water soluble and a member of the vitamin B complex. There are two forms of niacin - niacinamide and nicotinic acid. Niacin assists in the catalytic activity of certain enzymes involved in the break down and utilisation of proteins, fats and carbohydrates.
It is vital to the health of your nervous and digestive system. It is also involved in the synthesis of sex hormones. Why might you choose to take extra Niacin (Vitamin B3)? It may help to support a healthy digestive system It may help to support healthier skin It may help to increase your circulation and reduce blood pressure
B5 (Pantothenic Acid)
Known as the anti stress vitamin, it is needed for full immune function and aids the production of adrenal stress hormone.
Pantothenic Acid (vitamin B5) is water soluble and involved in cell building, maintaining normal growth, development of the nervous system and proper functioning of the adrenal glands.
Why might you choose to take extra Pantothenic Acid (Vitamin B5)? It may regulate energy levels It may help reduce infection by building antibiotics It may have a role in the production of certain hormones eg steroids
Folic Acid ((Also see below)
Additionally, Women of childbearing age and those who are pregnant, women taking the “Pill” and heavy drinkers, smokers, people taking anti biotics, those taking long term medication, anyone with immune dysfunction or autoimmune disease and heart disease patients should make sure they are getting enough. 400 IU-800 IU is the recommended daily amount (RDA), the higher being needed by pregnant women.
Folic acid is shown in surveys to be one of the nutrients most low in our diets; up to 65% can be lost in processing and refining. What does it do? It may help support brain and nerve activity It is needed for the formation of red blood cells and the metabolism of RNA and DNA It may help to support the liver. It may help in the production of digestive acid. It is required during periods of demanding bio-activity eg pregnancy and growth. It may help promote healthier looking skin and may help delay hair greying if used alongside Vitamin B5 and PABA
Why might you choose to take extra Folic Acid? If you are planning on becoming pregnant, If you are pregnant, If you lead a stressful lifestyle, If you have been diagnosed with a low level of hydrochloric acid in the stomach
This works together with folic acid to regulate levels of homocysteine which is a by-product of protein breakdown which can damage arteries causing the build up of cholesterol deposits.
Pyridoxine (Vitamin B6) is water soluble and therefore not stored in your body. If not used, it is excreted within 8 hours after ingestion, so like all the other B vitamins it needs to be replaced by whole food or supplements.
What does it do? It may support digestion of protein It may help to balance sex hormones It may help prevent nervous and skin disorders It may help to reduce night muscle spasms, leg cramps, hand numbness Why might you choose to take extra Pyridoxine (Vitamin B6) If you consume a diet high in processed foods If you lead a busy and hectic lifestyle.
Vitamin B12 (Cobalamin)
This is required for the function of genes, energy production, proper immune function and the formation of blood cells.
Vitamin B12 (Cobalamin) is water soluble and very effective in small doses. Its absorption is dependent on the presence of the intrinsic factor, a glycoprotein normally secreted by your stomach.
What does it do? May help to promote growth and increase your energy May help to promote a healthy nervous system May help to improve concentration, memory and balance May help the body to utilise fats, proteins and carbohydrates properly Is involved in the formation of blood cells Why might you choose to take extra Vitamin B12? If you are a vegetarian If you eat large quantities of protein If you have low energy levels To help maintain a healthy nervous system.
This is necessary for building cells. It has anti-inflammatory properties and can be used for treating asthma and arthritis and 1000mg is needed for treating these conditions.
A deficiency of Inositol can cause severe mental problems and supplementation of this can help panic attacks, depression and OCD’s (obsessive compulsive disorders.)
This is required for the correct function of the immune system and genes. Deficiency is common in diabetics and the elderly and infirm and those who are regular or long term users of anti-biotics.
What does it do? Biotin is a member of the B group of vitamins and is water-soluble. This vitamin has various functions in your body; It participates in the metabolism of fat, carbohydrates and certain amino acids Helps to produce and store energy Works alongside the hormone insulin to help control blood sugar levels Helps maintain healthy skin, hair and nails
Why might you choose to take extra Biotin? If you consume a large amount of raw eggs. Avidin (a protein in egg white) binds with biotin in the stomach and decreases its absorption. If you have taken antibiotics recently or are on a long term prescription. Their use greatly disrupts the intestinal flora whose health and balance is necessary for the synthesis of biotin If you are experiencing hair loss, dry and flakey skin, muscle weakness, irritated eyes and insomnia, these symptoms may be related to a biotin deficiency
Needed for the metabolism of amino acids and in the formation of blood cells. Deficiency is rare.
The B Group are an important group and can help with many illnesses as well as immune support. Most multivitamins supplements contain the B complex, or they can be purchased as a separate complex or individually for special needs. Deficiency of the B group through inadequate nutrition can cause depression, Parkinson’s disease, seizures, persistent headaches and migraines, and a B12 deficiency can cause pernicious anaemia. If you choose no other multivitamin complex or supplements, make sure you take the B complex at least.
This is a super antioxidant which is capable of neutralising free radicals and is responsible for aiding healing and also helping white blood cells to fight infection. It is also needed for the formation of collagen and other materials in the body such as teeth, bones and capillaries. It also helps our bodies to absorb iron sufficiently. Lifestyle choices such as smoking interfere with absorption and a lack of this super vitamin results in poor skin, wound healing and general weakness, amongst others.
To supplement think Camu Camu,, Goji Berries, Acerola Cherries
Helps maintain normal levels of calcium and phosphorous in our bodies and aids absorption. Lack of vitamin D results in weak, thin or brittle bones and contributes towards skeletal diseases such as osteoporosis.
Another antioxidant, vitamin E is a free radical scavenger. Free radicals are potentially dangerous by-products of your body’s metabolism and can cause dangerous illnesses like heart disease and cancer. It benefits skin, heart, and circulation, red blood cells, nerves and muscles. It is also known as having anti aging benefits and helps us in the menopause. It combines with vitamin A to protect the lungs and can help reduce the possibility of Alzheimer’s disease when combined with vitamin C, both of which need to be used in high doses for this purpose. There is also evidence of decreased breast cancer when using this vitamin. The maximum dosage recommended is 1200 IU as it then becomes toxic. It is beneficial to take at least 400 IU whether part of a multivitamin or in addition to. You would need to check the amount of vitamin E in the multivitamin first and then add on
There are also different types of vitamin E measured by potency and the cheaper types will not benefit you at all, such as the synthetic dl-alpha tocopheryl.(the letter l after the “d” identifies it.) The most beneficial and potent is d alpha tocopheryl. Once again it should be food state
This vitamin, famous for its benefits in pregnancy, is needed mainly for a variety of metabolic processes. Pregnant women who are deficient in this vitamin are more likely to give birth prematurely or deliver low birth weight babies or babies with neural tube defects. Women should ideally, however, start taking folic acid at least 3 months before trying to conceive. Folic acid deficiency anaemia most often affect women but can also affect men and is the most common deficiency. This can make us infertile at worst or lead to decreased ability to fight infection. Smokers, alcohol drinkers and those on certain medications are the most likely to be deficient.
400 micrograms are required with 600mcg needed during pregnancy. Deficiency symptoms include: palpitations weakness weight loss and a sore inflamed tongue. It assists in the process of carrying iron within the red blood cells.
The major nutrients that are also Antioxidants are: Vitamin C, Vitamin E, selenium and carotenoids. These protect us from free radical damage and are immune system protectors. Carotenoids act as a source of vitamin A, but also have antioxidant properties, as does copper, manganese, magnesium zinc, grape seed extract, lycopene, phenols and CoQ10 and also many amino acids such as Alpha-Lipoic Acid & Acetyl-L-Carnitine.
Bee propolis also has anti-oxidant properties and Regenerative Nutrition also do a supplement called Anti-Oxidant Vital Protect which contains Grape seed extract with O.P.C, biovin, turmeric, wild rose hip, propolis concentrate and hawthorn berry, all organically grown and it helps maintain energy, aids digestion, liver, circulation, anti-inflammatory. An extremely useful adjunct to the superfoods, such as chlorella, and pelvetia. It is natural and pure, free from any artifical additives, preservatives, flavourings, sweeteners and GM ingredients.
They basically protect us from illness and disease, lycopene being the most potent.
Please Click HERE to go to other supplements and read more about Anti Oxidants
Calcium is the major supportive element for strong bones and teeth and is also the mineral that we are most likely to be deficient in. Without it we are sure to develop osteoporosis. Do not take more than 500mg. Can be taken as the inexpensive Calcium Carbonate or Calcium Citrate and is best taken at bedtime together with magnesium as they can aid sleep due to their ability to relax muscles.
This mineral helps utilise the hormone insulin and is especially important for type2 diabetics or those who are at risk of developing it such as those with some autoimmune diseases or those who have had gestational diabetes. Chromium Picolinate is the best form and research has shown that it can help you shed fat without losing muscle. However this is a gradual process. The general dose is 50-200mcg daily. Slightly higher for diabetics. It is best taken separately but in addition to the amount in your multivitamin for best absorption and at a different time of the day. Diabetics should discuss supplementation with their doctor as medication may need to be reduced.
Copper is very important, but you don’t need a lot, only 1-2mg daily and this is the amount usually in most multivitamins. It is especially important to take copper if you take zinc supplements as zinc affects your ability to absorb copper.
Iodine is found in the food we eat. Although we don’t have much of it, when it gets out of balance, all kinds of problems result. When Iodine passes into the bloodstream, it is picked up by the Thyroid Gland Iodine is then changed into thyroxine. Thyroxine plays an important part in many body functions including growth, body temperature, metabolism and may also have some effect on lifespan. Iodine is only needed in the body to enable Thyroid function.
Seafood is the best source of iodine and also cod liver oil. Iodine is present in many multivitamin and mineral formulations, so extra supplementation is not necessary.
Hashimoto's Disease Sufferers should not supplement with Iodine
Those suffering with hypothyroidism that is not autoimmune related may benefit from 150mcg Iodine. Less is more however, so monitor any effects during supplementation and stop or reduce as required.
Iron is a very important mineral, but too much can cause an increased risk of heart disease and certain types of cancer, so the need for caution can not be over emphasised.
With many foods being fortified with iron, make sure there is a real deficiency before supplementing. Iron is responsible for haemoglobin which in turn is responsible for carrying oxygen around the body in the red blood cells. Deficiency on the other hand causes fatigue and weakness and is usually reserved for menstruating women and vegetarians. Athletes can also become deficient. It is best to check that you DO have a deficiency before taking iron supplementation and avoid ferrous sulphate as it can cause nausea and constipation. Ferrous gluconate is best.
Most multivitamins contain iron and the amount contained in most of these is too high for all, but the cases mentioned above, so most men and post menopausal women should take a multivitamin that is iron free. Always consult a doctor before taking iron as blood tests should be carried out to check whether you are truly deficient
Pleasse see the Beauty Minerals page for more information about how iron can benefit you.
This helps relax muscles and aids sleep especially when taken with calcium as above, so is best taken at bedtime. It maintains the bones, like calcium, and they compliment each other in helping to prevent osteoporosis. Regenerative Nutrition's Mag Sea Products are probably one of the best on the market. Also, please read this detailed article about Magnesium Chloride
Manganese is also a powerful antioxidant, as well as a mineral, and has free radical fighting powers. It is a trace mineral and one of it’s roles is to convert fat to energy.
It also assists normal bone growth, and maintains a normal immune, nervous system and reproductive system. It also plays a part in blood sugar control, blood clotting and the formation of cartilage and lubrication in joints.
It helps the body absorb B1, and Vitamin E and works with many important nutrients, including the entire B complex in maintaining the nervous system.
It also increases the effectiveness of Glucosamine supplements therefore assisting arthritis sufferers and also help with fatigue, osteoporosis, memory.
Since manganese works with iodine, it can also improve thyroid function, as an imbalance of either of these can cause hypothyroidism (underactive thyroid)
People with inflammatory conditions like rheumatoid arthritis would benefit from manganese as it is shown that they usually have a deficiency.
Although a recommended daily allowance has not been set, 2.5 - 5mg per day is a safe amount for all those over the age of 12.
This is an electrolyte. An electrolyte is a substance that controls your body’s fluid levels. Too much can affect your electrolyte balance therefore slowing your heart down and can be dangerous. Bananas contain potassium and the amount contained in your multivitamin is enough, usually about 100mg. Whilst potassium can lower blood pressure, it is really best that you do not take too much. If you eat plenty of fruit and vegetables, and 5 a day is recommended, you will be getting enough potassium from these.
A powerful antioxidant which helps protect you from cancer. It can cut your risk by half!! It works with other antioxidant vitamins like A C and E to fight free radicals, like a small army. 200mcg with food is the recommended daily amount and high doses, in excess of 400mcg are toxic.
Sulfur is a healing mineral and aids in the elimination of ntoxic substances. Pain and inflammation are associated with sulphur deficiency. It is stored in the nerves, brain, liver and bowel and especially in skin hair and nails. The hormone insulin is a sulphur compound.
The important food sources of sulphur are cabbage, kale, horseradish, cauliflower, cranberries, meat, fish, eggs yolks, onion and garlic.
A deficiency of sulphur causes: Arthritis, infections, Asthma, Migraines, Acne, Muscle and back pain, constipation, stress, circulatory problems, skin disorders, dry skin, urinary tract disorders, wrinkles, free radical damage, nerve disorders, muscle and skeletal disorders.
Sulphur can be taken as a supplement known as MSM or "Methyl Sulphonyl Methane" with many beneficial results and it is a supplement I take daily. I have written a page about it for your information.
Please Click HERE to read more about MSM
Zinc strengthens the immune system and aids sperm development and supports reproduction as it is also needed for fertilization and ovulation. Supplementing or using zinc gluconate in a nasal spray can help fight cold viruses. 15mg is needed daily and additional copper is required due to the fact that supplementing with zinc can affect copper absorbtion so make sure you take 1-2mg of copper additionally. Zinc should be taken with food and taking at night is said to be best.
Regenerative Nutrition's Multi Trace Complex is a good way to have a multitude of trace elements in a tablet. It is natural and food state.
More Nutritional Supplements
Most important of all, make sure your vitamin supplements are from food state vitamins such as camu camu, fruits and vegetable superfood supplements like spirulina and other superfood supplements as well as natural and food state products such as those by Regenerative Nutrition, Detox Your World and Naturally Green rather than the host of synthetic supplements on the shelves in big "super" chemists and supermarkets. You body can not cope with anything synthetic including health supplements.
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Please Click HERE to go to the Other Supplements page
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