As recently as a decade ago, the mysterious authority commonly called "they" claimed that taking vitamin and mineral supplements was a complete waste of time and money and only gave you expensive urine.
During the majority of its history, conventional medicine has contested the importance of supplementing one’s diet with vitamins and minerals, severely criticizing alternative practitioners who believed that nutritional factors were crucial in preventing and even curing disease.
It has only been in the past decade or so that conventional medical groups have jumped on the bandwagon, claiming as their own something that was once only in the domain of alternative practitioners from the United States and traditional practitioners in countries such as China, Japan, and India.
Often these alternative nutritional beliefs and therapies have been passed down from generation to generation in Eastern medicine, some of them dating back thousands of years.
While, in the past, conventional medicine often violently opposed alternative therapies such as supplementation, a phenomenon has recently evolved that I like to think of as a changing tide in health care. Most medical practitioners now recognize the importance of nutrition in maintaining health and often work together with non-medical health providers in the best interests of their patients.
In my opinion, much more cooperation is needed, however, and until more funding is allocated for research and application of non-medical therapies, the public will continue to rely heavily on the medical community for the majority of its information and scientific data.
Some of the past controversy over supplementation stemmed partially from extravagant claims, such as those related to rapid weight loss or miraculous cancer cures, which are usually made by those with something to gain financially. As seen in so many other areas, the practical benefits of supplementation were often overshadowed by the sensationalism of a few opportunistic individuals.
There is still considerable debate in the scientific community about supplementation. As numerous research studies are continually proving, however, vitamins and minerals play a much bigger role in maintaining optimal health than was previously believed by conventional western medicine.
To help you become more familiar with some of the most important natural vitamins and minerals, I have provided the following basic information. Keep in mind that this is only a partial list of healthy supplements and that every day new discoveries are being made. Yet another reason to include healthy food such as supergreen Chaya from Pure Life into your daily lifestyle.
I find beta-carotene, which is also called pro-vitamin A, particularly interesting because beta carotene is turned into vitamin A by the body as needed. Although vitamin A can cause toxicity in mega doses, beta carotene does not, since the body will not convert beta carotene into Vitamin A unless it has a specific need for it.
Beta-carotene is found naturally in orange fruits and vegetables, such as carrots, sweet potatoes, and cantaloupes, and in dark green, leafy vegetables, such as spinach and collard greens. In recent years, beta-carotene has attracted worldwide attention from scientists, who are investigating its positive effects on heart disease, cataracts, cancer, and the various aspects of aging.
Vitamin A, also known as retinol, is a fat-soluble vitamin that positively affects the function of the immune system and improves eyesight, especially night vision. Many of the traditional sources of vitamin A, such as liver, beef, and eggs, are high in cholesterol and fat.
Fortunately, however, you can increase your intake of vitamin A by consuming more of the beta carotene-rich fruit and vegetable sources listed above. Your marvelous, innately intelligent body will convert beta-carotene to vitamin A as it is needed.
Vitamin B-1, B-2, B-3, B-6, B-12, and folic acid are among the vital B complex vitamins. I like to think of the B complex vitamins as the Pure Energy Vitamins because they play a crucial role in helping to release energy from food, and are extremely important in the metabolism of proteins, carbohydrates, and fats.
B vitamins are involved in nearly every reaction in the body, and some of the B complex vitamins may also help fight cancer and strengthen the immune system. The B vitamins are water soluble and can also be depleted by stress. They should be taken together for optimal benefits.
Vitamin B-1, or thiamine, is a necessary component in the production of energy. Alcoholics are especially prone to vitamin B-1 deficiency since alcohol impedes the body’s ability to process thiamine. Some good sources of thiamine are whole grains such as oatmeal, rice, and whole wheat, legumes, nuts, eggs, milk, fish, wheat germ, salmon, navy and kidney beans.
Vitamin B-2, also known as riboflavin, is involved in helping the body burn fats, carbohydrates, and proteins, and is necessary for maintaining healthy mucous membranes. A riboflavin deficiency can show up as cracks at the corners of the mouth and itching and burning of the eyes. Skim milk is an excellent source of riboflavin. Eggs, lean meats, poultry, whole grain breads and cereals, dairy products, and yeast are all good sources of vitamin B-2.
Vitamin B-3 or niacin, is also important in the metabolic process. Niacin increases circulation and helps keep the digestive system healthy. It is sometimes used to help prevent premenstrual headaches, and to treat dizziness and ringing in the ears.
Sometimes, taking too much niacin or taking it on an empty stomach can produce a reaction commonly known as niacin flush, which causes your skin to turn bright red and can be quite uncomfortable.
I have personally experienced this unpleasant side effect when I was younger and took Niacin on a nearly empty stomach. My skin turned so red that my friend’s mother wanted to take me to the emergency room. It seemed funny afterward but was quite alarming at the time.
A certain form of Vitamin B-3, known as nicotinic acid (not to be confused with nicotine) may lower the amount of cholesterol and triglycerides in the blood, reducing the risk of heart disease. Some natural sources of niacin are the lean white meat of chicken and turkey, fish, legumes, and whole grains.
Vitamin B-6 or pyroxidine has a multitude of functions, including helping the body process proteins, carbohydrates, and fats. Pyroxidine also works with other vitamins and minerals to supply the energy used in muscles.
Pyroxidine aids in the production of red blood cells and the cells of the immune system. Vitamin B-6 affects almost every system of the body, and may help relieve the symptoms of PMS, morning sickness, and carpal tunnel syndrome.
Vitamin B-6 also helps the body resist stress. Fish, brown rice, cereal grains, brewer's yeast, wheat germ, the white meat of chicken, bananas, broccoli, salmon, and tuna, are just some of the natural sources of B-6.
Vitamin B-12, also known as cobalamine or cyanocobalamine, is essential in the formation and regeneration of red blood cells and helps prevent anemia. B-12 is only obtained from animal sources such as poultry, eggs, fish, and milk.
Vegans (people who do not eat food that comes from animals) should supplement their diet with B-12, since it cannot be obtained from plant-based foods. Some good sources for B-12 are low fat dairy products, chicken, turkey, shrimp and salmon.
Another extremely promising B complex vitamin, folic acid, works hand in hand with B-12. Folic acid is necessary for the formation of red blood cells, and has been linked to the prevention of certain types of birth defects. Dark green leafy vegetables such as spinach, and wheat germ, citrus fruits, and beans are excellent sources of folic acid.
Pregnant women and women planning to conceive should make an effort to obtain sufficient amounts of folic acid, since it is crucial to have adequate amounts of folic acid in the mother’s body during the first few weeks of pregnancy. Folic acid helps regulate nerve cell development in the embryo and also in the developing baby. Folic acid’s role in preventing serious birth defects is so crucial that the FDA will soon require that it be added to some foods.
Possibly my favorite vitamin, Vitamin C, is a potent antioxidant with a multitude of health promoting properties. The chemical name for vitamin C is ascorbic acid. This powerful vitamin has been linked with everything from the prevention of lung, breast, colon, and cervical cancer and the reduction of cholesterol, to reducing the risk of cataracts and preventing colds. In addition, Vitamin C is essential in wound healing and the formation of collagen. It has been linked to the prevention of skin cancers and wrinkles that result from exposure to ultraviolet rays, as well.
It is very important to maintain a high level of vitamin C in the bloodstream, since stress, smoking, and environmental pollutants can destroy it. Women who take oral contraceptives also have an increased need for this vital nutrient.
Since vitamin C is water soluble and quickly excreted through the urine, it is necessary to replenish your stores by frequently eating fresh fruits and vegetables, and taking supplements if needed. I often recommend taking timed-release vitamin C or splitting the dosage by taking morning and evening supplements.
Vitamin C has been proven to boost immunity and studies have indicated that it can help prevent and decrease the symptoms of the common cold. I have personally experienced the powerful effects of large doses of vitamin C on the immune system but do not recommend taking mega doses over an extended period of time. Even though ascorbic acid is water soluble, excessive intake can cause kidney stones and gastrointestinal disturbances such as diarrhea.
Citrus fruits such as oranges and grapefruits, and dark green vegetables, tomatoes, potatoes, broccoli, strawberries, cantaloupe, and green peppers are all excellent sources of vitamin C.
Vitamin D is nicknamed, “the sunshine vitamin” because your body can manufacture vitamin D after being exposed to the sun. It is necessary for the proper formation of teeth and bones, and is a vital component in proper functioning of the nervous system. Vitamin D also helps maintain the correctratio of calcium and phosphorus in the blood.
In order for calcium to be properly absorbed from food, vitamin D must be present. Like other fat soluble vitamins, Vitamin D can be toxic in long term megadoses. Some natural sources of Vitamin D are sunshine, skim milk, dairy products, salmon, sardines, and wheat germ.
Vitamin E, also known as alpha tocopherol, is thought to slow down the aging process by preventing oxidative damage to the cells. Alpha tocopherol has been linked to reduced plaque buildup in coronary arteries, thus lowering the risk of heart disease.
Vitamin E has also been linked to the prevention of breast, colon, lung and prostate cancer. I have found through practical experience that this amazing fat-soluble vitamin works wonders on the skin, speeding up the healing process of burns and decreasing scar tissue. I recommend keeping a bottle of Vitamin E oil, which can be purchased at most health food stores and some drug stores, in your medicine cabinet for use on damaged skin.
Vitamin E is found naturally in vegetable oils, whole grains, nuts, seeds, green leafy vegetable, legumes, and wheat germ. You should be aware that mega doses in excessive amounts can actually alter the immune system and impair sexual function.
Vitamin K, another fat-soluble vitamin, is interesting in that one form of this vitamin is produced in the body by “friendly” bacteria that are found in the intestinal tract. Vitamin K is a necessary element in blood clotting and helps prevent abnormal bleeding, and is found naturally in spinach, cauliflower, oats, cabbage, green tea, and soybeans.
Information and statements regarding dietary supplements have not been evaluated by the FDA. Dietary supplements are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease. Dr. Suzy is a retired Doctor of Chiropractic and active Health And Fitness Educator. The information and suggestions that she shares on this website are for reference purposes only and not intended to be diagnostic in any way nor a substitute for consultation with a physician or other licensed health-care professional. Always obtain a complete physical examination and discuss your specific conditions, limitations, and health history with the qualified health care provider of your choice before making major lifestyle changes.