Jul 24, 2008, 4:37 AM
With each day more people are turning to herbs and vitamin supplements to ease their pain and/or enhance their overall health. No person is too young or old to benefit from vitamins but whether there’s a need for taking vitamin supplements mostly depends on a person’s health condition rather than his age.
DR AZADEH our health adviser, a Senior Lecturer at UTG and Senior Medical Consultant is focusing on this week’s health advice on the commonest use of vitamins and explains the real indication for taking vitamins in appropriate way of needs of good health and advising, avoiding taking unnecessary vitamins if there is not indicated and end up wasting biologically and financially.
DR AZADEH - What are Vitamins?
Vitamins are substances that can be found inside your body or in food. They can be water-soluble or fat-soluble. The latter type of vitamins can be stored inside your body; they will stay there until the body finds a use for them. Water-soluble vitamins on the other hand are eliminated through urination if the body has no need for them. Because of this, you should ensure that your body has a ready supply of water-vitamins prepared daily for any eventuality.
What Functions Do Vitamins Perform?
Vitamins help the body in various ways although specific vitamins play specific functions. Vitamin A is good for the eyes while vitamin K aids in blood clotting and vitamins in general strengthen the immune system, help body organs and cells perform their activities, and facilitate the growth and development of your health.
Types of vitamins
VITAMIN A enhances immunity, prevents eye problems and skin disorders, important in bone and teeth formation, protects against colds and infection and slows aging process.
HERBAL SOURCES: Alfalfa, borage leaves, burdock root, cayenne, chickweed, eyebright, fennel seed, hops, horsetail, kelp, lemongrass, mullein, nettle, oat straw, paprika, parsley, peppermint, plantain, raspberry leaves, red clover, rose hips, sage, violet leaves, watercress, yellow dock.
VITAMIN B1 (Thiamine) Promotes growth, improves mental attitude, aids digestion, helps strengthen nervous system and prevent stress.
HERBAL SOURCES: Alfalfa, bladder wrack, burdock root, catnip, cayenne, chamomile, chickweed, eyebright, fennel seed, fenugreek, hops, nettle, oat straw, parsley, peppermint, raspberry leaves, red clover, rose hips, sage, yarrow, and yellow dock.
VITAMIN B2 (Riboflavin) needed for red blood cell formation, aids growth and reproduction, promotes hair, skin and nail growth, and important in the prevention and treatment of cataracts.
HERBAL SOURCES: Alfalfa, bladder wrack, burdock root, catnip, cayenne, chamomile, chickweed, eyebright, fennel seed, fenugreek, ginseng, hops, horsetail, mullein, nettle, oat straw, parsley, peppermint, raspberry leaves, red clover, rose hips, sage, yellow dock.
VITAMIN B3 (Niacin) Essential for proper circulation and healthy skin, increases energy, aids digestion, and helps prevent migraines.
HERBAL SOURCES: Alfalfa, burdock root, catnip, cayenne, chamomile, chickweed, eyebright, fennel seed, hops, mullein, nettle, oat straw, parsley, peppermint, raspberry leaf, red clover, rose hips, slippery elm, yellow dock.
VITAMIN B5 Enhances stamina, prevents anaemia, helps wounds heal, fights infection, and strengthens immune system.
HERBAL SOURCES: Alfalfa, burdock root, nettle, yellow dock.
VITAMIN B6 (Pyridoxine) Needed to produce hydrochloric acid, aids in absorption of fats, and protein, mildly diuretic, helps prevent kidney stones, helpful in treating allergies, arthritis, and asthma.
HERBAL SOURCES: Alfalfa, catnip, oat straw.
VITAMIN B12 helps prevent anaemia, protects nervous system, improves concentration, aids digestion.
HERBAL SOURCES: Alfalfa, bladder wrack, hops.
VITAMIN C helps calcium and iron formation, enhances immunity, helps prevent cancer, aids in production of anti-stress hormones, antioxidant required for proper tissue growth and repair, and adrenal gland function.
HERBAL SOURCES: Alfalfa, burdock root, cayenne, chickweed, eyebright, fennel seed, fenugreek, hops, horsetail, kelp, peppermint, mullein, nettle, oat straw, paprika, parsley, pine needle, plantain, raspberry leaf, red clover, rose hips, skullcap, violet leaves, yarrow, yellow dock.
VITAMIN D is essential for calcium and phosphorous utilization, prevents rickets, needed for normal growth of bones and teeth, helps regulate heartbeat, prevents cancer and enhances immunity, aids thyroid function and blood clotting.
HERBAL SOURCES: Alfalfa, horsetail, nettle, parsley.
VITAMIN E Antioxidant which helps prevent cancer and heart disease, prevents cell damage, reduces blood pressure and promotes healthy skin and hair.
HERBAL SOURCES: Alfalfa, bladder wrack, dandelion, flaxseed, nettle, oat straw, raspberry leaf, rose hips.
VITAMIN K promotes healthy liver function, helps bone formation and repair and increases longevity.
HERBAL SOURCES: Alfalfa, green tea, kelp, nettle, oat straw, shepherds purse.
Self Care strategies for vitamin intake
24 Good reasons why you may need vitamin supplements:
Many people believe that eating a well balanced diet provides all the vitamins and minerals necessary for good health. In ideal circumstances, this is the case, but in reality, there are many reasons why you may need vitamin supplements to cope with living in the twentieth century environment. Taking vitamins when required is a safe method of optimizing your dietary sources of nutrients, providing you follow the instructions on product labels.
1. Poor Digestion - Even when your food intake is good, inefficient digestion can limit your body’s uptake of vitamins. Some common causes of inefficient digestion are not chewing well enough and eating too fast. Both of these result in larger than normal food particle size, too large to allow complete action of digestive enzymes. Many people with dentures are unable to chew as efficiently as those with a full set of original teeth.
2. Hot Coffee, Tea and Spices - Habitual drinking of liquids that are too hot, or consuming an excess of irritants such as coffee, tea or pickles and spices can cause inflammation of the digestive linings, resulting in a drop in secretion of digestive fluids and poorer extraction of vitamins and minerals from food.
3. Alcohol - Drinking too much alcohol is known to damage the liver and pancreas which are vital to digestion and metabolism. It can also damage the lining of the intestinal tract and adversely affect the absorption of nutrients, leading to sub-clinical malnutrition. Regular heavy use of alcohol increases the body’s need for the B-group vitamins, particularly thiamine, niacin, pyridoxine, folic acid and vitamins B12, A and C as well as the minerals zinc, magnesium and calcium. Alcohol affects availability, absorption and metabolism of nutrients.
4. Smoking - Smoking too much tobacco is also an irritant to the digestive tract and increases the metabolic requirements of Vitamin C, all else being equal, by at least 30mg per cigarette over and above the typical requirements of a non-smoker. Vitamin C which is normally present in such foods as paw paws, oranges and capsicums, oxidizes rapidly once these fruits are cut, juiced, cooked or stored in direct sunlight or near heat. Vitamin C is important to the immune function.
5. Laxatives - Overuse of laxatives can result in poor absorption of vitamins and minerals from food, by hastening the intestinal transit time. Paraffin and other mineral oils increase losses of fat soluble vitamins A, E and K. Other laxatives used to excess can cause large losses of minerals such as potassium, sodium and magnesium.
6. Fad Diets - Bizarre diets that miss out on whole groups of foods can be seriously lacking in vitamins. Even the popular low fat diets, if taken to an extreme, can be deficient in vitamins A, D and E. Vegetarian diets, which can exclude meat and other animal sources, must be very skillfully planned to avoid vitamin B12 deficiency, which may lead to anaemia.
7. Overcooking - Lengthy cooking or reheating of meat and vegetables can oxidize and destroy heat susceptible vitamins such as the B-group, C and E. Boiling vegetables leaches the water soluble vitamins B-group and C as well as many minerals. Light steaming is preferable. Some vitamins, such as vitamin B6 can be destroyed by irradiation from microwaves.
8. Food Processing - Freezing food containing vitamin E can significantly reduce its levels once defrosted. Foods containing vitamin E exposed to heat and air can turn rancid. Many common sources of vitamin E, such as bread and oils are nowadays highly processed, so that the vitamin E content is significantly reduced or missing totally, which increases storage life but can lower nutrient levels. Vitamin E is an antioxidant which defensively inhibits oxidative damage to all tissues. Other vitamin losses from food processing include vitamin B1 and C.
10. Antibiotics - Some antibiotics although valuable in fighting infection, also kill off friendly bacteria in the gut, which would normally be producing B-group vitamins to be absorbed through the intestinal walls. Such deficiencies can result in a variety of nervous conditions, therefore it may be advisable to supplement with B-group vitamins when on a lengthy course of broad spectrum antibiotics.
11. Food Allergies - The omission of whole food groups from the diet, as in the case of individuals allergic to gluten or lactose, can mean the loss of significant dietary sources of nutrients such as thiamine, riboflavin or calcium.
13. Accidents and Illness - Burns lead to a loss of protein and essential trace nutrients such as vitamins and minerals. Surgery increases the need for zinc, vitamin E and other nutrients involved in the cellular repair mechanism. The repair of broken bones will be retarded by an inadequate supply of calcium and vitamin C and conversely enhanced by a full dietary supply. The challenge of infection places high demand on the nutritional resources of zinc, magnesium and vitamins B5, B6 and zinc.
14. Stress - Chemical, physical and emotional stresses can increase the body’s requirements for vitamins B2, B5, B6 and C. Air pollution increases the requirements for vitamin E.
15. P.M.T - Research has demonstrated that up to 60 per cent of women suffering from symptoms of premenstrual tension, such as headaches, irritability, breast tenderness, lethargy and depression can benefit from supplementation with vitamin B6.
16. Teenagers - Rapid growth spurts such as in the teenage years, particularly in girls, place high demands on nutritional resources to underwrite the accelerated physical, biochemical and emotional development in this age group. Data from the USA Ten State Nutrition Survey (in 1968-70 covering a total of 24,000 families and 86,000 individuals) showed that between 30-50 per cent of adolescents aged 12-16 had dietary intakes below two thirds of the recommended daily averages for Vitamin A, C, calcium and iron.
17. Pregnant Women - Pregnancy creates higher than average demands for nutrients, to ensure healthy growth of the baby and comfortable confinement for the mother. Nutrients which typically require increase during pregnancy are the B-group, especially B1, B2, B3, B6, folic acid and B12, A, D, E and the minerals calcium, iron, magnesium, zinc and phosphorous. The Ten State Nutrition Survey in the USA in 1968-70 showed that as many as 80 per cent of the pregnant women surveyed had dietary intakes below two thirds of recommended daily allowances. Professional assessment of nutrient requirements during pregnancy should be sought.
20. The Elderly - The aged have been shown to have a low intake of vitamins and minerals, particularly iron, calcium and zinc. Folic acid deficiency is often found, in conjunction with vitamin C deficiency. Fibre intake is often low. Riboflavin (B2) and pyridoxine (B6) deficiencies have also been observed. Possible causes include impaired sense of taste and smell, reduced secretion of digestive enzymes, chronic disease and, maybe, physical impairment.
22. Bio-Individuality - Wide fluctuations in individual nutrient requirements from the official recommended average vitamin and mineral intakes are common, particularly for those in high physical demand vocations, such as athletics and manual labor, taking into account body weight and physical type. Protein intake influences the need for vitamin B6 and vitamin B1 is linked to kilo joule intake.
23. Low Body Reserves - Although the body is able to store reserves of certain vitamins such as A and E, Canadian autopsy data has shown that up to thirty percent of the population have reserves of vitamin A so low as to be judged “at risk”. Vitamin A is important to healthy skin and mucous membranes (including the sinus and lungs) and eyesight.
For further information seek advice from health professionals at various Hospital and Clinics, “THE POINT” health section, call at West Cost Radio, DR AZADEH and PETER GOMEZ health Show every Tuesday from 6-7pm and email DR AZADEH on email@example.com.