Optimal body function cannot occur without a compliment of vitamins, minerals, amino acids and co-factors. These substances all interact with other essential nutrients, especially proteins, to keeps us alive (at best), and at optimum functioning when in correct amounts and balances.
The body does not manufacture or synthesize all the needed vitamins. It does however have the capabilities to manufacture about half when the raw materials are available. Therefore some of the much-needed vitamins must be supplied by the diet or in dietary supplements. Vitamins are essential to the normal functioning of our bodies. They are necessary for growth, vitality, health, general well being, and for the prevention and cure of many health problems and diseases. Vitamins interact with minerals and enzymes acting as co-enzymes within each cell of the body.
In humans there are 13 commonly recognized vitamins: 4 fat-soluble; A, D, E and K and 9 water-soluble; 8 B vitamins ( B1thiamin, B2 riboflavin, B3niacin, B5 pantothenic acid, B6 pyridoxine, B7 biotin, B9 folic acid, B12 cobalamin), and vitamin C.
Water-soluble vitamins dissolve easily in water, and in general, are readily excreted from the body to the degree that urinary output is a strong predictor of vitamin consumption. Because they are not readily stored, consistent daily intake is important. The actual amount an individual needs every day is dependant upon some variables. When the body is compromised by dis-ease, extreme fatigue, medication or stress, the body will need more replenishing than when it is in a balanced state. When it gets more water-soluble vitamins than it needs it will excrete them. This is the reason you sometimes have very bright yellow urine when taking (Riboflavin) vitamin B2.
Fat-soluble vitamins are absorbed through the intestinal tract with the help of lipids (fats). Fat-soluble vitamins are best absorbed when taken with foods that have a good fat content. Avocados, nuts, nut butters, fish, kefir or yogurt and olives are all examples of foods that will facilitate absorption of fat-soluble vitamins.
The recommended daily allowances (RDA) for vitamins and minerals were calculated in the 1940s when soil was healthy. Pesticide use came into vogue after WWll when the government contractors for wartime chemicals had to somehow use their surplus. As we became more industrialized the factory farms pushed out crops with less regard for the health of the soil. Thus, our food supply became increasingly depleted of vital nutrients. Our vitamin and mineral needs at times exceed the inadequate RDA and are not available in the Standard American Diet. This is when supplementing is a consideration.
A lack of optimal intake due to the inferior nutrient content in the diet; or a physical condition that inhibits absorption or depletes the vitamins can be cause for deficiency, as can lifestyle choices such as smoking and drinking excessively and prolonged physical or emotional stress. Many prescription drugs also deplete nutrients the body needs for maintenance and repair.
Optimally food would be our first choice for supplementing needed vitamins and by eating a varied diet. Foods grown regionally and eaten fresh increase the chances of maintaining the needed vitamins that the body requires. When it is impractical to get the fresh locally grown foods not sprayed with chemical toxins, the next best option is frozen. Stay away from canned foods as much as possible.
The importance of quality vitamin supplements is a priority when one consumes a marginal diet of fresh organic fruits, vegetables, whole grains, legumes and meat although one must be discriminating in determining what goes into their vitamin supplement other than the vitamin itself. Also, the form of a vitamin that is used is of the utmost importance. The complete form is always best when taking vitamin C (should contain bioflavonoid for best absorption and function). Vitamin E optimally will have the array of tocotrienols present (alpha, beta, gamma and delta) and be in its natural form. Synthetic vitamin E is labeled with a dl prefix. When looking for a vitamin it is important to check the label for fillers, binders, preservatives and sweeteners. Even though you may be told that the amount of these additives is very small it can add up when you take several supplements a day for an extended period of time. One such substance under scrutiny is magnesium stearate.
Again, fresh food is your best choice. Purchase organic when possible to get the highest nutrient content and avoid pesticides that disrupt healthy body function. Armed with common sense and accurate information you can make the choice that is best for you when considering supplementing with vitamins. In the meantime take into consideration the following tips for healthier eating.
- Try to purchase fresh, organic fruits and vegetables from your grocer or local farmers market. If this option is not available to you, opt for frozen over canned.
- Avoid packaged, processed or food-like substitutes. Nearly all processed foods contain GMO products and are lacking real vitamin content.
- Eat fresh food, and never buy anything that contains hydrogenated or partially hydrogenated oil and stay away from all trans-fats.
- Read the label. If you don’t know what a word means, or cannot pronounce it, don’t eat it!
- Do not buy products with a long shelf life. The process used to increase shelf- life will decrease your life.
- Don’t buy or eat food products that have been enriched. The nutrient quality has been completely devitalized during processing.
Rick Wagner, C.N., M.S.