Tag Archives: vitamins

5 Nutrient-Packed Foods for Healthy Hair

de5de856512394ea_shutterstock_96575575.previewMany of us assume that buying the best shampoos and conditioners will be enough to keep our hair looking healthy. These products do help to repair existing hair damage but don’t do much to promote new hair growth and cannot replace essential vitamins that we may be missing from our diet. There are certain essential vitamins and minerals that our hair relies upon, and a lack of these is often the source of many hair growth problems. Some simple changes to our diet can really make a big difference to the look of our hair.

Modern lifestyles can also have an impact – a busy lifestyle, lack of sleep, or even pregnancy can seriously make a difference in our hair health. Vitamin supplements have  been proven to help, but if you are looking for the most natural sources of these vitamins then here is a list of 5 food types foods that can help to provide those essential vitamins your hair needs.


Many sources site that salmon is the number 1 super food for healthy hair. This is because it contains a great combination of essential substances that our hair simply loves. Omega 3 oils help maintain a well hydrated scalp, and many believe this is essential to maintaining healthy hair growth. Oily fish such as herring, mackerel and sardines are rich in omega-3, and salmon is also rich in Vitamin D which is great for your hair follicles.

If you are someone who doesn’t like eating fish then certain vegetable sources can be a great way to get the omega-3 you need. Rapeseed, flaxseed, soya beans, walnuts, almond and even tofu are all good sources of Omega-3.

Vegetables with Beta-carotene

Beta carotene is present in many vegetables and provides us with a great source of Vitamin A. For many people who suffer from dandruff a simple addition of vitamin A to their diet can help solve the problem. Vitamin A helps to promote sebum oil which is our body’s natural conditioner for our scalp. It can also help with hair growth problems as it is said to assist with oxygenating our scalp. Sweet potatoes are known to be one of the best sources, and other vegetables such as carrots, spinach, and broccoli are also recommended.


Oysters are also recommended to help fight scalp problems such as dandruff. A lack of zinc in your diet may even be the cause of hair loss, and oysters have a particularly high zinc content. Zinc helps promote the level of androgens in our body, and for some people a low level of androgens has been directly linked to hair loss. Crab, liver and beef are also good sources of zinc.

Eggs and other biotin rich foods

Our hair is essentially built using protein, a nutrient that has been associated with speeding up hair growth. Protein can be found in many types of foods, but eggs are one of the best sources. Another important mineral in eggs is biotin, and those who have a biotin deficiency may suffer from brittle hair. To prevent this, biotin has been proven to be effective from both foods and supplements if needed. Kidney beans and nuts such as almonds and even peanuts are also good sources of biotin.

Fruit and vegetables with Vitamin C

Vitamin C is great for both our hair and skin. Vitamin C helps keep our blood vessels oxygenated, which in turn keeps our hair follicles healthy. Super fruits such as blueberries have a very high level of Vitamin C, and strawberries and citrus fruits are also good sources. Many vegetables such as green beans, spinach and broccoli are good sources, and the old-fashioned rule of eating colorful vegetables can give you a good indication of a high vitamin C content, as well.

You may have identified that one of these essential sources of vitamins is missing from your diet, and that may well be the cause of a particular problem. If you are concerned and believe you may have a nutrient deficiency then simple tests at your doctors can identify what vitamins and minerals you may be lacking. This Women’s Hair PDF can also help you to diagnose any hair health problems you may have!

Why You Should Not Stop Taking Your Vitamins (Part 2)

Amor Sin Remedio Hopeless Love Hoffnungslose LiebeClick here to read Part 1!

Why Most Vitamin Studies Are Flawed

There is another important thing to understand about clinical trials that review the utility of vitamins in the treatment of disease. The studies that show harm are often designed like drugs studies. For example, a study may use a high dose of vitamin E and see what happens. This is actually a prescient example also explored in recent media.

Studies recently found that high doses of vitamin E and selenium didn’t prevent prostate cancer and may increase risk. What this study didn’t explore properly was the true biochemical nature of vitamin E and selenium. These nutrients work as antioxidants by donating an electron to protect or repair a damaged molecule or DNA. Once this has happened, the molecules become oxidants that can cause more damage if not supported by the complex family of antioxidants used in the human body. It’s sort of like passing a hot potato. If you don’t keep passing it, you will get burned. Many studies simply fail to take this into account.

Nature doesn’t work by giving you only one thing. We all agree that broccoli is good for you, but if that were all you ate, you would die in short order. The same is true of vitamins. Nutrients are not drugs, and they can’t be studied as drugs. They are part of a biological system in which all nutrients work as a team to support your biochemical processes.

Michael Jordon may have been the best basketball player in history, but he couldn’t have won six NBA titles without a team.

Obesity Is Linked To Malnutrition

The tragedy of media attention on poor studies is that they undermine possible solutions to some of the modern health epidemics we are facing today, and they point attention away from the real drivers of disease.

Take the case of obesity, for example. Paradoxically, Americans are becoming both more obese and more nutrient deficient at the same time. Obese children eating processed foods are nutrient depleted and increasingly get scurvy and rickets–diseases we thought were left behind in the 19th and 20th centuries. After treating over 15,000 patients and performing extensive nutritional testing on them, it is clear to me that Americans suffer from widespread nutrient deficiencies, including vitamin D, zinc, magnesium, folate, and omega 3 fats. This is supported by the government’s National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES) data on our population. In fact, 13% of our population is vitamin C deficient.

Scurvy in Americans in 2013? Really? But if all you eat is processed food–and many Americans do–then you, like the British sailors of the 17th century, will get scurvy.

Unfortunately, negative studies on vitamins get huge media attention while the fact that over 100,000 Americans die and 2.2 million suffer serious adverse reactions from medication use in hospitals when used as prescribed is quietly ignored. Did you know that anti-inflammatories like aspirin and ibuprofen kill more people every year than AIDS or asthma or leukemia?

In short, these studies often confuse rather than clarify, and they only serve up doses of media frenzy and superficial analysis. They leave the consumer afraid, dazed, bewildered, and reaching for their next prescription drug.

Please, be smart; don’t stop taking your vitamins. Every American needs a good quality multivitamin, vitamin D, and omega-3 fat supplement. It is part of getting a metabolic tune-up and keeping your telomeres long!


Originally published on my website, DrHyman.com.

Why You Should Not Stop Taking Your Vitamins

pale-woman-taking-vitamins_123rf.com_Do vitamins kill people? How many people have died from taking vitamins? Should you stop your vitamins?

It depends. To be exact, it depends on the quality of the science and the very nature of scientific research. It is very hard to know things exactly through science. The waste bin of science is full of fallen heroes like Premarin, Vioxx and Avandia (which alone was responsible for 47,000 excess cardiac deaths since it was introduced in 1999).

That brings us to the latest apparent casualty, vitamins. The recent media hype around vitamins is a classic case of drawing the wrong conclusions from good science.

Remember how doctors thought that hormone replacement therapy was the best thing since sliced bread and recommended it to every single post-menopausal woman? These recommendations were predicated on studies that found a correlation between using hormones and reduced risk of heart attacks. But correlation does not prove cause and effect. It wasn’t until we had controlled experiments like the Women’s Health Initiative that we learned Premarin (hormone replacement therapy) was killing women, not saving them.

New studies “proving” that vitamins kill people hit front pages and news broadcasts across the country seemingly every day.

Paul A. Offit’s recent piece in The New York Times, “Don’t Take Your Vitamins,” mentioned a number of studies that suggested a correlation between supplementation and increased risk of death. Offit asserts, “It turns out … that scientists have known for years that large quantities of supplemental vitamins can be quite harmful indeed.” The flaws in the studies he quoted have been well documented. Giving large doses of a single antioxidant is known to set up a chain reaction that creates more free radicals.

But many studies do not prove anything. Science is squirrelly. You only get the answers to the questions you ask. Many of the studies that are performed are called observational studies or epidemiological studies. They are designed to look for or “observe” correlations. Studies like this look for clues that should then lead to further research. They are not designed to be used to guide clinical medicine or public health recommendations.

All doctors and scientists know that this type of study does not prove cause and effect.

Why Scientists Are Confused

At a recent medical conference, one of most respected scientists of this generation, Bruce Ames, made a joke. He said that epidemiologists (people who do population-based observational studies) have a difficult time with their job and are easily confused. Dr. Ames joked that in Miami, epidemiologists found everybody seems to be born Hispanic but die Jewish. Why? Because if you looked at population data in the absence of the total history and culture of Florida during a given time, this would be the conclusion you would draw. This joke brings home the point that correlation does not equal causation.

Aside from the fact that they fly in the face of an overwhelming body of research that proves Americans are nutrient deficient as a whole and that nutritional supplements can have significant impact in disease prevention and health promotion, many recent studies on vitamins are flawed in similar ways.

How Vitamins Save Money and Save Lives

Overwhelming basic science and experimental data support the use of nutritional supplements for the prevention of disease and the support of optimal health. The Lewin Group estimated a $24 billion savings over five years if a few basic nutritional supplements were used in the elderly. Extensive literature reviews in the Journal of the American Medical Association and the New England Journal of Medicine also support this view. Interventional trials have proven benefit over and over again.

The concept that nutritional supplements “could be harmful” flies in the face of all reasonable facts from both intervention trials and outcome studies published over the past 40 years. For example, recent trials published within the last few years indicate that modest nutritional supplementation in middle age women found their telomeres didn’t shorten. Keeping your telomeres (the little end caps on your DNA) long is the hallmark of longevity and reduced risk of disease. A recent study found that B12, B6 and folate given to people with memory loss prevented brain atrophy that is associated with aging and dementia. In fact, those who didn’t take the vitamins had almost ten times loss of brain volume as those who took the vitamins.

A plethora of experimental controlled studies–which are the gold standard for proving cause and effect–over the last few years found positive outcomes in many diseases. These include the use of calcium and vitamin D in women with bone loss; folic acid in people with cervical dysplasia (pre-cancerous lesions); iron for anemics; B-complex vitamins to improve cognitive function; zinc, vitamins C and E and carotenoids to lower the risk of macular degeneration; and folate and vitamin B12 to treat depression. This is but a handful of examples. Fish oil is approved by the FDA for lowering triglycerides and reduces risk of heart attacks and more. There are many other studies ignored by Offit in his New York Times piece.

Stay tuned for Part 2!


Originally published on my website, DrHyman.com.

Are You Ready to Stop Eating Real Food…Forever?

Lord, no, this is not about starving yourself.

This is the latest start-up by a 20-something genius, engineer Rob Rhinehart who has apparently invented a product that will free the world from the shackles of real food. It’s a vitamin and nutrient-rich drink, derived from plants but entirely lacking in taste or color, which Rhinehart is calling “Soylent” (somewhat ironically/controversially after the 1970s sci-fi film “Soylent Green.”) The founder claims to be subsisting, himself, almost entirely on the vitamin juice at this point – and with good results.

If this is all sounding a bit wacky, then you’re not alone. Many have raised doubts and concerns over such tampering with the human diet. We are, after all, made to eat real food, and such a reduction might sound dangerously similar to an eating disorder. But when asked about the “real food” concern by Vice magazine, Rhinehart responded:

Just because something is natural doesn’t mean it’s safe or healthy, and just because something is artificial doesn’t mean it’s unhealthy or dangerous. Look around you. Nothing we buy is natural. Everything useful is designed and manufactured, and food should be no different. People are afraid of sweeteners when it’s real sugar that’s killing us. They’re afraid of preservatives when food waste is rampant. McDonald’s is trying to engineer lower-calorie food that is more filling to fight obesity, but people are demanding natural-sounding ingredients. It’s frustrating to watch. The idea of “real food” is just snobbery. Everyone has the right to be healthy, even people who don’t like vegetables.

Still not convinced? Well we may need to get used to the idea of food replacements, says Rhinehart, who sees the growing global food crisis as one of the main imperatives for Soylent. And their company has actually seen considerable success in the short time they’ve been around. Their crowd-funding campaign has raised over one million dollars (much more than their initial goal of $100,000)! And apparently there are already people out there ordering Soylent packages online and enjoying the food-free life.

So, what do you think? Would you ever give up food in exchange for a tasteless juice of pure vitamins? Tell us your thoughts!


Thumbnail credit: Julio Miles / Soylent

5 Ways Vitamins Can Help Improve Your Metabolism

I'm really trying here.Metabolism is the set of life-sustaining chemical transformations within the cells of living organisms in the body. As humans age and fluctuate between weights, the metabolism tends to slow down. Adding vitamin supplements to any wellness regime can give a sluggish metabolism a boost. Weight loss goals are met easier with a fully functioning metabolism.

Here are five metabolism boosting vitamins to consider.

Choline: Burns Fat

Choline can reduce overall body fat by assisting in lipid metabolism. By increasing how fast the body is able to burn fat, you can become more efficient at losing pounds and keeping them off. Choline may even prevent memory loss in old age.

Many adults receive the recommended dosage of 425 mg through their diet or multivitamin, but it’s available as a supplement too. Choline can be found in fish (specifically salmon and Atlantic cod), eggs, broccoli, brussels sprouts, and wheat germ.

Vitamin B-12: Fights Fatigue

A Vitamin B-12 deficiency can make someone feel exhausted, weak, and even depressed. Avoid these symptoms and achieve a sudden boost in energy by adding vitamin B-12 to your diet. Vitamin B-12 complements other B vitamins, such as B-5, B-6, and biotin. The increased energy level from adding B-12 to your diet makes it easier to lose weight. Red blood cell formation can even be improved with this vitamin.

The recommended dose is 50 mg, and it can be found as a supplement and in meat, fish, and eggs.

Vitamin C: Metabolizes Fats

Vitamin C is commonly known to improve immune systems, but it plays a role in burning fats too. It can also help fight oxidative stress which causes weight gain. If you’re looking for medications and vitamins in the United States or Canada drugs, this over-the-counter vitamin is easily accessible.

Vitamin C is available as tablets, capsules, and drink powders, so it’s simple to add in the recommended 1000 mg to your diet. It can also be found in oranges, strawberries, cabbage, and broccoli.

Magnesium: Digests Enzymes

The National Institute of Health claims that Americans aren’t getting enough magnesium in their diet, so it’s important to consider adding this vitamin for the overall health benefits. This powerful vitamin helps the heart function properly, strengthens bones, and supports a healthy immune system. Magnesium can also help the body digest enzymes which naturally boosts metabolism.

The recommended dose is 500 mg per day, and it can also be found in whole grains, peas, and nuts.

CLA: Targets Abdominal Fat

CLA, also known as Conjugated Linoleic Acid, aids in metabolizing fat which boosts metabolism. Scientific studies have shown that this vitamin specifically targets abdominal fat. Other health benefits include muscle growth and decreased cholesterol. If you’re looking to drop pounds, talk to your physician about adding CLA into your weight loss plan. Combined with diet and exercise, CLA is a powerful tool to jump start your metabolism.

Take CLA with a meal; the recommended dose for optimal results is 1000 mg.

A balance of the right vitamins can increase metabolism and provide other long-lasting health benefits. While you can receive some of these key nutrients through your diet, it’s important to add in the correct supplements to have your metabolism work with and not against you.

8 Tips to Avoid Getting Sick While Traveling

No273 13 Oct 2009 Sneeze

When travel became a major part of my life about 10 years ago, I’d always get sick either before, during, or after a trip. It was like clockwork; I almost started really believing that catching a cold or feeling like crap at some point was just a normal part of traveling. Can you relate? If so, please keep reading, because it really doesn’t have to be this way (cue some hallelujah music). Turns out, I was being my own worst enemy and doing all the wrong things to keep my body and immune system strong, and you might be too.

Today, after big moves across the United States and the Equator, with lots of travels in between, I can say I’ve learned the hard way (sneezing and sniffling) how to keep myself from getting sick while traveling. Sitting on my sister’s deck this Kansas summer morning, 5,000 miles away from home, I’ve compiled a list of my tried and true ways to keep your body and immune system strong – these tips work whether you’re traveling for a few days or a few weeks.

Bring your good habits with you:

It took you months to consistently eat 4 servings of veggies a day (or mediate, workout, journal, stop binge-drinking, whatever “it” is for you), don’t leave it behind while on vacation. These core habits are part of your lifestyle and they keep your body, mind, and, spirit healthy – all which affect your immunity. Obviously, you have to be flexible in making this work while away from home, but you can so do it. For example, if you’re staying with friends or family and cooking-in, offer to make your favorite veggie dish or buy a veggie tray to snack from throughout the day. Who knows, your good habit might even rub off on others – a win-win all-around.

Don’t overbook yourself right before or after your travel dates (less pre/post vacation stress):

I used to be so bad at this – running around like a crazy woman the day before or planning something important the day after returning from a trip. I know it’s hard with busy schedules, but you have to plan ahead and not book yourself solid at least the day before and the day after a trip (or the day of if you are leaving late at night, you get the point). It will always take you longer than you think to pack, get everything squared away for while you’re gone, and then get back in the groove when you return. Trust me, make this a priority and book pre/post vacation blocks in your calendar and you will reduce your stress levels – keeping your immune system strong.

Take immune boosting herbs and vitamins:  

If you regularly take vitamins, don’t forget them (I’ve regrettably done that more than once). It’s also a good idea to bring an extra supplement specifically to help keep your immunity strong. This could be Vitamin C supplements, Echinacea, or my new personal favorite, bee propolis. All of these give you that extra boost that you will need since you are in new surroundings with different germs and bacteria.

Wash your hands (a lot) and carry hand sanitizer:

We all know to wash our hands after using the bathroom and before eating (if you don’t, you need to make that a new habit), but while on vacation you really should wash your hands more than you think is necessary. Your skin is your first line of defense and your hands specifically are always touching things and then touching your own face, mouth, or eyes. My rule of thumb is this: when I see a sink with soap, I wash my hands. I also always have a travel size bottle of hand-sanitizer. It’s the best while on an airplane and running around doing fun, travel activities.

Plan to take it easy sometimes:

Yeah, yeah, yeah, I get it – you’re on vacation so you want every single minute jam packed. It sounds great in theory but awful in practice. It took me years to finally make this a travel priority but once I planned chill time (aka me time) and stuck with it, my vacations were much more stress free, and guess what, I starting getting sick less often. Coincidence, I think not. If you’re traveling with family that loves to keep things jam packed or kids that need constant entertainment, plan a pool day or even just a “free” day that has nothing pre-scheduled. This gives you time to just go with the flow and that’s always super fun too.

Don’t skimp on your sleep:

This is important before, during, and after the trip. Of course, you might have a late night here or there (you are on vacation after all), but make sure you keep getting a healthy 7-9hours per night. I know it can be difficult to sleep well while away from home, but you can always take some natural sleep supplements with you and try to make your sleeping area as comfortable as possible. For me, that means a quiet, dark room with a glass of water by the bed.

Keep healthy snacks around:

While on vacation, it’s normal to try local foods that aren’t exactly considered healthy (last night my sister enthusiastically made one of her favorite deep fried recipes), and that’s OK. However, if you eat unhealthy your whole trip, you will lose energy and increase your chances of getting sick. The best thing to do is bring some healthy snacks with you and/or buy some when you arrive. I don’t travel without some sort of nut mix and I almost always buy fruits, Greek yogurt (if a fridge is available), and protein bars. This gives my immunity a boost and keeps me less tempted to eat something unhealthy on the go when hunger creeps up.

Drink lots (and lots) of water:

When I’m traveling, I take my already high amount of water drinking per day to another level. You won’t see me get on a plane, leave the hotel, or go out to eat without bringing water. Drinking water is a big must while you travel because it flushes your body of toxins, helps your digestion (which is associated with your immune system) and keeps you hydrated. Keep water with you throughout the day and chug a glass before you head out in the morning and before you go to bed.

Follow these tips, and next time you get back from traveling you won’t have say, “I had a great time, but unfortunately, I got sick”. Instead, you can say how awesome it was and start planning your next vacation!

Do you have any other tips to not getting sick while traveling? I’m always down to learn a new trick – share in the comments below. 

* * *

18154748891333272199Are you ready for a healthy Vegas vacation?

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photo by: mcfarlandmo

10 Things You Probably Didn’t Know About Calcium and Dairy

121018_SCI_DairyProds.jpg.CROP.rectangle3-largeThe health effects of dairy are a controversial subject among many doctors and nutritionists. While we nearly every species in the animal kingdom depends on dairy in one form or another in the first few years of life, the question of whether dairy is healthy for adults is more difficult to answer.

All dairy products are made up of a combination of proteins, fats, and carbohydrates. However, dairy products can vary widely in their health effects; full-fat raw milk is processed very differently in the body than highly-processed, sugar-laden yogurts. While the USDA food pyramid recommends 2-3 servings of milk products a day, many health professionals suggest that’s a mistake, and that many of the dairy products we consume are quietly reeking havoc on our bodies from the inside out.

Most of us grew up thinking the milk, cheese, yogurt, dips, and spreads our parents fed us were “healthy.” We’ve been led to believe that dairy is the greatest thing since sliced bread, providing essential nutrients for our bones and overall health. But the latest medical research has produced some counterintuitive findings about how much dairy is actually good for us. Let’s take a closer look.

Here are 10 things you probably didn’t know about calcium and dairy:

  1. The US suggests 500 milligrams more in daily calcium intake than the World Health Organization recommends…Yet somehow, the US also has the highest hip fracture rate in the world.
  2. In an Australian study comparing 105 vegan Buddhist nuns and 105 people who consume dairy on a regular basis, there was no difference found in bone density.
  3. High dairy consumption (3+ servings daily) has been linked to an increased rate of prostate cancer;
  4. decreased semen quality in men; and
  5. breast cancer in women.
  6. Dairy is a major source of saturated fat, which increases the risk of heart disease.
  7. There are many plant sources of calcium, including navy beans and kale. (Check out the article in the recent Spirituality & Health issue for more plant-based calcium options.)
  8. Vitamin K may be just as important as calcium for bone health. Good sources of vitamin K include brussels sprouts, broccoli, and many more which you can read about in the article.
  9. Keeping your blood alkaline will help prevent your body from sucking calcium out of the bones. Nearly all produce can have an alkalizing effect in the body.
  10. If the taste and texture are what you’re after, there are lots of delicious alternatives! Consider nutritional yeast mac and “cheese” or tofu ricotta. Grab the latest issue of Spirituality & Health for more cheese alternative ideas!



MayJune2013_Eckhart.1Does this make you second guess your dairy intake? For more information about how much dairy you should consume and how to get calcium from healthier sources, check out the May-June edition of Spirituality & Health, on newsstands now! The article Move Over Milk, by Alicia Bowman, provides some great ideas for how you can reduce dairy intake without going completely vegan. (And if you are vegan, then all the more power to you!)

For more enlightening, empowering, and inspiring information about your physical and emotional health, subscribe now to Spirituality & Health. 

Deepak Chopra: Vitamins and Minerals — Nourishing the Ocean Within (Part 1)

Commercials on television push the same message – “Take your vitamins” — but doctors are less urgent. A balanced diet of fresh nutritious  foods is still the ideal way to get  the vitamins and minerals that your body needs. A catch phrase form medical school holds that if you take extra vitamins and minerals, what you get is expensive urine. That’s because the kidneys filter excess water-soluble micronutrients from the bloodstream, treating them as waste, and elsewhere your cells take the vitamins and minerals that they need, no more and n less.

Still millions of Americans automatically pop supplements every day, and some go even further. Massive doses, popularly called mega-vitamins, are touted as cures for aging, cancer, and other hazards. The fad for meg-vitamins has not been supported by scientific research, however.  With mainstream medicine turning a deaf ear to claims about vitamins and the public being bombarded by dubious claims, we need to dig deeper for clarity.

Before we do that, the basic approach to vitamins and minerals can be restated, since few changes have occurred since the health classes taught in grade school.

Vitamins and minerals: The Basics 

The bullet points for vitamins and minerals are a bit lengthy since so many basic processes are involved. Just keep in the mind the reassurance that for most people, there is little need to manage risks in this department.

– A normal balanced diet supplies the recommended daily allowance (RDA) of vitamins and minerals.

–  The water-soluble vitamins (vitamin C and the entire vitamin B group) need to be replenished far more frequently, often daily, than fat-soluble vitamins (vitamins A, D, E, and K), which leave the body very slowly. Minerals, with the exception of water-soluble ones like salt and potassium, leave at an even slower rate. For growing children, the chief source of vitamin D is sunshine. Children who stay indoors most of the time can readily get vitamin D from milk with vitamin D added. The iodine added to salt is generally not useful, since modern diets are not  low in iodine.

– Most Americans consume vast quantities of sugar and refined flour. This can push aside vitamin-rich natural foods, although deficiencies are regularly encountered.

– Optimal absorption can be disrupted by lifestyle choices, medications, and a number of health conditions. A few examples: Smoking interferes with the absorption of Vitamin C, and alcohol abuse with the absorption and metabolism of folate. Antacids, as well as medications for type-2 diabetes, can interfere with B12 absorption. Dehydration is the most common cause of mineral imbalances, known medically as electrolyte imbalance.  Taking a “water pill” for high blood pressure leads to the leaching of sodium, potassium, and the water-soluble vitamins. This needs to be addressed on a daily basis, or the result may be electrolyte imbalance.

– For normally healthy adults, the chief caution is directed at seniors, whose bodies become less efficient with age at processing vitamins and minerals. For this group, it is the absorption of minerals, in fact, that is generally a problem rather than vitamins. Taking a mineral supplement is often a good preventive measure but not to excess.  More isn’t better, nor is more frequent.

– Vitamin and mineral deficiencies are slow to appear, since the body is good at conserving micronutrients. Menstruating women should eat foods high in iron or consider taking a supplement, however, in order to prevent anemia.

– Natural sources of vitamins tend to be preferable over synthetic sources. The body uses them more easily. For women taking iron or calcium supplements (the latter is for preventing or slowing down osteoporosis), any source needs to be absorbable.

– Scientific evidence is scant for the benefits of high levels of vitamins and minerals. (At the same time, scientific worry for people who ingest mega-vitamins tends to be greatly exaggerated.) The most likely benefit comes from taking extra vitamin E, since the natural sources for it (e.g., nuts, whole grains, the fats found in raw vegetables)  are decreasing in modern diets. Processed vegetable oils are low in vitamin E, which also oxidizes once the oil is exposed to air and begins to turn even mildly rancid. The RDA for vitamin E is unclear, but studies have shown that taking ten times the usual RDA can be of benefit and causes no harm.

Our aim is to find a level of higher health through consciousness. With that in mind, relying on drugs for miracle cures isn’t helpful, and the sad truth is that many people look upon vitamins and minerals as drugs. If you eat a healthy, balanced diet, put your attention on things other than pill-popping. In other words, don’t waste time obsessing over vitamins. No study has ever shown that people who take supplements at high doses enjoy better health or longer life. If you are following the general indicators listed above, you are okay. That said, it can be worthwhile to know more about your body and its need for micronutrients.

Let’s start with the most primal, which is neither a vitamin nor a mineral but linked to both.  We humans are self-contained, walking oceans, a fact that has been true for land creatures for hundreds of millions of years. It’s remarkable to think that the water in your cells, which constitutes around two-thirds of your total weight, hasn’t drastically changed from sea water. The proportion of salt is essentially the same, and even the trace elements of minerals like manganese, zinc, copper, and iron are a direct inheritance from ocean water. The body replenishes itself by creating new cells, a process that requires the chemicals that began as components of sea water. As long as chemical balance is maintained,  which is a top priority for every cell and its strongest instinct, the waling ocean is naturally healthy.

Reasons for Confusion

One reason for the gray area surrounding vitamins and minerals is the difference between the positive effects and the negative effects of micronutrients. Vitamins came to light not through the good they did but the bad that occurs when there is a deficiency. The most famous example is scurvy, a disorder caused by lack of vitamin C. Vitamin C needs to be replenished daily since it belongs to the class known as water-soluble vitamins, which quickly wash out of the blood through urine (vitamin C reminds us of this fact by being a strong diuretic when taken in tablet form as ascorbic acid. For some people, even a natural source like orange or grapefruit juice leads to immediate urination). British sailors acquired the nickname of limeys after the cause of scurvy became known after 1614, and the British navy stocked ships with citrus fruits. Oranges, lemons, and grapefruit are just as effective for preventing scurvy; it is interesting that the link with vitamin C was discovered and lost, only to be rediscovered, from ancient times, ling before ascorbic acid was isolated.

Into the twentieth century, as other vitamin-deficiency diseases were identified, such as rickets and pellagra, two things remained consistent. The first was that it took a poor, often impoverished diet to create such disorders. Second, the actual benefits of vitamins and minerals were difficult and often impossible to name. Iron is necessary for the production of hemoglobin, the complex chemical that makes red blood cells red; this link was relatively easy to connect.  But most links are so obscure that even when the chemical basis has been traced all the way down to the cellular level, the actual benefit is far from clear.

For example, to a biochemist vitamin C has multiple uses at the cellular level, which can be isolated and name.  For example, ascorbic acid is needed to make collagen, the protein that connects skin tissue, among other things. It enters into hydroxylation and amidation reactions;  the components of collagen production that are critical for needing it are prolyl hydroxylase and lysyl hydroxylase.  The last time most physicians heard such terms was in pre-med biochemistry, and they are generally unknown to the public. This leaves plenty of room for outsized, unsupported claims for the benefits of vitamin C. It also makes it difficult, when there is no deficiency, to see how adding more than the body’s “natural” requirement might be beneficial.

But we have to put “natural” in quotes as long as the picture is vague. Around the world human beings have adapted t so many different diets that the consumption of vitamins is by no means the same. An extra degree of confusion enters with processed foods, an invention of the twentieth century, in which micronutrients are stripped from their natural sources and then put back again, if at all, through artificial and synthetic means. Ironically, such foods are touted as “enriched” with vitamins, which is like saying that taking someone’s wallet and then handing it back adds to his riches.

In the next post we will go into a more detailed scientific look at vitamins and minerals


(To be cont.)

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Vitamin B3 – My ‘Interesting’ Experience!

Kim Duess and Vitamin B3At my last visit to my TCM (Doctor of Chinese Medicine), I asked her for something to help me with cramps.  She gave me a few great tips, including take Vitamin B3 (Niacin) every hour when cramps are heavy.  So off I went to my health food store to pick up some Vitamin B3!  The lady at the health food store asked if I would like the ‘no-flush B3′.  I asked what the difference was and she said that some people experience red, tingling skin for a while with the regular Vitamin B3.  She said if I took the regular version, I should take it with food.  I decided on the regular B3 as a little red skin doesn’t bother me and I am not overly sensitive to anything.

I will now tell you what happened 5 days ago.  It was 6 days after my knee surgery and along with my surgery pain, I was having cramps, so I decided to take my B3 for the first time.  I forgot about the ‘take it on a full stomach’ and took 100 mg 2 hours after my breakfast. I then went upstairs to do a little work on my computer.  After 5 minutes, I felt a tingling sensation and thought ‘Oh geez, I wonder if I have a blood clot!’  Blood clots can form after surgery and I’d been doing exercises to keep the blood moving to avoid clots.  So I was very aware of blood clot symptoms, which can include tingling sensation in your leg for a knee surgery.

The tingling was not located in my leg but all over my body.  I decide to lie down for a few minutes to see if this would help.  It did not.  The tingling became stronger, my skin was itching and now I felt like I was on fire!  I ripped off the ice packs from my knee and threw them on my head…I called out for my partner, Dave, and he came running in to help.  Things were not getting better as my heart rate was rising and I was sweating.  We went to the hospital to find out what was wrong.

I was greeted by a cheerful nurse who asked me if I’d taken any Vitamin B3, after she heard/saw (I looked like a red lobster!) my symptoms! I said yes …. and asked ‘why’?  She told me that this is a common reaction to Vitamin B3.  WOW.

So no, I did not have a blood clot :)   It was a reaction to B3!

Apparently if you take an Asprin 30 minutes before your Vitamin B3 or take with a meal, this will help avoid the side effects.

To your health,

Kim Duess


PS Here are some foods high in Vitamin B3:

Animal products:

* liver, heart and kidney
* chicken
* beef
* fish: tuna, salmon
* milk
* eggs

Fruits and vegetables:

* avocados
* dates
* tomatoes
* leaf vegetables
* broccoli
* carrots
* sweet potatoes
* asparagus


* nuts
* whole grain products
* legumes
* saltbush seeds


* mushrooms
* brewer’s yeast

Expert Report: Vitamin D/Calcium: The Right Stuff?

The IOM expert report on Vitamin D and Calcium suggests two changes: increasing your vitamin D intake from 200IU (under age 50) to 600IU daily, or 800IU if you are 71 or older; and not supplementing with calcium.


The new safe daily upper limit of vitamin D is 4000IU; for calcium it’s 2000mg, which increases kidney stone risk.


The IOM believes this much of each is best for bone health. Much of the public and many physicians believe that vitamin D is needed for more than that. People love supplements– and almost half of U.S. adults take them.


Especially in Winter, especially for dark-skinned Americans, vitamin D helps the body’s own immune system fight flu virus and improve multiple sclerosis.


I recommend few supplements, because high quality meals can contain everything you need. But pregnant and nursing women, newborns and the elderly on restricted diets need specific supplements.


Few foods, except wild salmon, mackerel, herring and caviar(!) have much vitamin D; the dairy adds vitamin D to milk, just enough to prevent rickets.


The smartest and safest approach is to have your 25-hydroxyvitamin D level measured. Your doctor can order it, or you can with this vitamin D kit. The test uses radioimmunoassay, the most accurate testing available.


The IOM thinks your level should be 20ng/ml; many vitamin D experts think it should be 30ng/ml; an independent group of vitamin D researchers (not vitamin sellers) thinks 40ng/ml. Ask your MD.


And check out a new national federally funded Vitamin D/Omega-3 study testing 2000IU daily, for optimal health.

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