What is a Vitamin?
Few people really understand what vitamins are. Perhaps that is why they don't bother to take them - or they take them sporadically when they "feel something coming on."
Hopefully you will have a better understanding of the importance of vitamins and why they are essential to your daily diet!
Vitamins are "biological catalysts". A catalyst is something that causes a natural process to take place more rapidly or to take place at all. Although a catalyst allows or accelerates a chemical reaction, it does not become a part of the results of that reaction. Because it is a facilitator and not a part of the reaction, it does not get used up; (it is basically just a matchmaker). Once they have performed their function, the liver clears these vitamins, which is why it is important to replenish them every day.
Why do You Need Vitamins?
Within your body, you have millions of 'cellular factories' that produce chemical reactions throughout the day. Think of your body as a giant chemical factory producing hundreds of millions of different kinds of reactions that are necessary for your body to function. These reactions, so critical to proper functioning, do not take place without a catalyst i.e. without Vitamins!
Can you get all the vitamins you need from the food you eat?
There was a time when all of the vitamins our bodies needed were supplied through the food we ate. Sadly, this is generally no longer the case. There are several factors that have contributed to the current deficiency of vitamins in our food supply. One is the use of chemicals in farming. Rather than growing crops using crop rotation - a method that allows the soil to become replenished naturally over time, farmers inject or work nitrogen into the soil to assist in crop growth. As a result, crops appear healthy but the plants themselves are depleted of certain nutrients. Anybody who has ever seen or tasted a Chandler strawberry from California in January can easily tell.
Vitamins are typically biological complexes made within the plant. Vitamins often will not develop sufficiently in plants grown in nitrogen-injected, mineral depleted soil. A lot of the beautiful dark lettuces that we see in the produce department, are only dark because of the high nitrogen and high in water content. Not that healthy!! The only way to get the "whole package" is to buy organically grown. Preferably locally..
Or from a farmer who knows how to produce nutrient dense food. More about that further down.
Another factor is the amount of processed, prepared foods we eat today. Processing tends to destroy vitamins.
The fact that we have been taught to avoid saturated fats and change to unsaturated ones has been one of the biggest dietary mistakes of the 20th century. While mono-unsaturated fats are good for our health, the abundance of poly-unsaturated fats in just about everything has cause and is causing a lot of unhealthy situations because polyunsaturated fats (esp. Omega-6) are very unstable and prone to oxidation.
Butter is still better than margarine for a number of reasons, one of the latest of which is the discovery of Vit K2, a very potent anti-oxidant, that is abundantly present in butter from pastured cattle.
Finally, there is more pollution today in our water and air (as well as in our animals and vegetables), in the form of free radicals
Free radicals are the fundamental attackers of our bodies, the cancer and chronic illness 'causers.' Free radicals come with the food with eat, the air we breathe, but also from our own body. In fact the older you get the more free radicals you produce, because your body is slowly shutting down. You may not like the idea of your body failing you, but the fact of life is that all living things work towards reproduction. Once that is accomplished, or the time for it past, you are considered past due. Living a long and healthy life really means cheating life a bit. It is possible to counteract all that free radical activity by taking in a lot of free radical fighter : anti-oxidants.
Antioxidants found in vitamins are free radical neutralizers and another reason vitamins are so important to our diet.
Of course there are a lot more anti-oxidants and it so happens that we are still discovering more and more anti-oxidants. Often already known for ages but nor as anti-oxidants, but as "it's good for you".
Fairly recent discoveries are among others, the trace element selenium, the herb turmeric, and not in the least cholesterol. It is possibly the reason why older people often have a higher cholesterol level and why it might not be a good idea to bring that level down. Most likely your liver is making the extra cholesterol because it is needed.
Free radicals cause cell damage throughout our body, causing inflammation that we are sometimes made aware of and most often only through secondary symptoms. Liverspots in older people are one such sign of free radical damage.
Which vitamins should you take?
First of all, your body needs vitamins EVERY DAY. Since most people do not get the recommended daily allowance of vitamins from the food they eat, they should be taking vitamin supplements. Vitamins should not be confused with 'medicine' for many reasons: Generally, they should not be taken to treat or cure a specific symptom (used this way, they become more like 'medicine'). Nor are vitamins "benign"- they do have an integral impact on your body and the chemical reactions within your body.
In general, you should take vitamin supplements as well as eat lots of green, leafy vegetables, preferably uncooked (with some exceptions, such as broccoli and cabbage), and drink 3 to 4 quarts of water per day. If you value your health and wish to maintain a high quality of life, you should not eat or drink , -or limit intake as much as possible- the following: coffee, chocolate, soda, sugar, or alcohol. Excluding red wine. Especially French red.
Although each person's vitamin needs are specific to his or her individual habits and current state of health, the following supplementation provides a starting point of the minimum amounts most people should be getting.
Vitamin C: 3000 to 4000 mg per day (taken 1000 to 2000 mg four times per day) May be taken in pill or powder form. This is variable. For instance, if you work in a toxic area (how's your drinking water), you will need higher amounts. If you smoke you would need upwards of 20 times the normal amount. Of course, if you smoke, the rest of this information will be of little use to you until you stop.
NOTE: the exception is people with hemochromatosis, a metabolic disorder that causes people to extract three times as much iron from their food and Vitamin C helps with iron absorption
Vitamin B complex: B-50's. It is suggested that, for the first month take one per day, after that, take only half each day (25 mg).
Vitamin B6: 100 mg- only to be taken if you are also taking the B complex. This is also true of B12 shots or any other single B.
Vitamin E : 400 to 800 IU. Use only mixed tocopherols. these are a combination of many of the tocopherols, not just D ALPHA tocopherol as in the inexpensive "E" on the shelves. Check the labels; they'll say "mixed tocopherols" or will list them on their label.
Beta Carotene: 15,000 to 25,000 IU per day
Vitamin A: 7500 to 14,000 IU per day
Vitamin D 500 mg per day
We know now that Vit D is more important in the fight against osteoporosis than calcium; we also know now that milk is NOT a good source of calcium. The break down of the proteins that come with it virtually wipes out whatever benefit we micht have gotten from the relatively high calcium content of milk. Furthermore there is the lactose to contend with, causing damage to your artery walls and thus raising of your LDL cholesterol to repair the damage done by the free radicals.
Better eat broccoli!
Selenium: 50 to 100 mg per day
Zinc: 50 to 100 mg per day
Calcium Citrate with Magnesium (usually in tablet form. Take around 1000mg of calcium and 500mg magnesium each day. Split it up so you take 1/2 in the AM and 1/2 with supper). Avoid calcium from dolomite (check the label) because dolomite has lead in it.
Can you Overdose on Vitamins?
Yes and no. I'll bet you're not surprised. You can overdose on anything! Even water. Having said that, the real issue lies elsewhere.
Yes, you can take too many vitamins. Balance is the key. From a practical standpoint, the reason is not what is generally touted in magazine articles. Though lipid (oil-based) vitamins can have a cumulative and toxic effect, in reality it would be difficult to eat enough of them to do harm. The real problem is self-prescribing vitamins without sufficient information and background to do so. Let me give you a little information with which to make your own decisions more accurate.
Overdosing on vitamins - any vitamins - is difficult for the average human, though certainly not impossible. Before you could overdose, you would have to take far more vitamins than the average person could stand. Notice I said 'average human.' There are extremists and fanatics in health as well as everything else. They're the ones who are always telling you about the latest miracle supplement touted in some magazine. That's why the above suggestions for the average, healthy adult person. Is this exactly correct for you? Of course not; but it is a great starting place and generally good regimen.. Please bear in mind that the average person is hard to find; and all of us do not need the exact same vitamin regimen. On the other hand, neither do we all buy shoes custom-made just to fit us - yet, the average pair you find on the shelf works well enough and certainly beats going barefoot!
As a little clarification, note that all vitamins are not created equal. That is, they are not all built on the same base. There are vitamins that are primarily water-soluble and others that are primarily oil (lipid) soluble. The water-soluble vitamins are thought to be cleared more easily so they are often considered harmless* see below. Oil soluble vitamins tend to have a cumulative effect because it is generally more difficult for the liver to clear them. Therefore, you may see warnings about "overdosing" on oil (lipid) soluble vitamins, such as: Vitamin E, Vitamin A, Vitamin D, etc. Examples of water-soluble vitamins are: B vitamins (often called 'B-complex,' as they are a group or 'complex' of the 'B' family of vitamins), Vitamin C, etc.
As explained earlier, vitamins are biological catalysts that are cleared by the liver after performing life-sustaining functions and, if you use common sense and these and other guides, overdosing on them will not be the problem. But, as shown in the scenario below, you can create a vitamin deficiency by taking too much!
Does the following scenario sound familiar? A person feels really bad, so she or he goes to the M.D. The Doctor prescribes medicine to treat the symptoms but the person still has no energy and continues to feel stressed out. This person goes to a local health food store and sees a sign on product called something like "STRESS 100'S." He zooms over to the counter and buy the package. TWO packages. The reasoning is: if some is good, more is better, and I'm REALLY stressed!
How has this person affected his body by self-prescribing this stress reducing vitamin package:
Let's assume a person has diminished energy because of a vitamin B deficiency, (among other functions, B vitamins tend to catalyze mitochondrial reactions that produce energy). If this were the problem, an increase in vitamin B would be helpful. However, only a small amount of B complex is needed to correct the deficiency. Symptomatic people often end up taking too much of the vitamin they think they need, thereby creating an even bigger problem for themselves- a vitamin deficiency!
This is what occurs: The liver looks at anything the body doesn't need as a foreign substance or toxin. If you take an excess of vitamin B, your body will use what it can and consider the rest a toxin, as it does anything it cannot use. The liver will form antibodies and/or conjugates to attack or remove this 'toxic surplus' - in this case, B vitamins. It would be nice if it all ended there, but it doesn't. Once formed and activated by a surplus of vitamins, these antibodies or conjugates will scour the body looking for all vitamin B, in an effort to remove it from the body. In time, when, for instance, a person takes a B-100, the liver clears it out almost immediately then goes on to clear any other B vitamins it can find throughout your body. This is B complex that you need but that was removed inappropriately because some of it was in over supply! The result is symptoms of a deficiency as a result of taking too much of a particular vitamin! This is where balance comes it.
Vitamins often work in conjunction with each other. That is why I suggest a balanced regimen, a program that we follow each day rather than taking vitamins only when we feel "we need them." So long as our bodies are living, we need vitamins. If we take a well-balanced vitamin regimen daily, we will ensure that we won't ever "need them."
Some common misconceptions:
1) Vitamins are not fads; they are food. Forget the current 'vitamin of the month' approach, espoused in many 'health magazines' and countless newspaper articles and television programs. It goes against the fundamental concept of what vitamins are and do. It demonstrates an allopathic approach - using substances to treat symptoms - as if treating symptoms was actually addressing the underlying disease.
2)Try to stay away from synthesized vitamins. They contain toxic, substances that do not exist in vitamins derived from living things such as plants. Pharmaceutical companies tend to 'design' synthetic compounds so that they can patent the results, thereby assuring protection against imitators and securing their market niche. However, tailored substances are rarely if ever good for us. They are certainly not as effective as the compounds we evolved with. Always look for Natural..
Vitamins are not properly used to combat disease but rather to maintain health, happiness, and well-being. They work best in a proactive rather than reactive lifestyle. .
And don't forget to exercise!
Of Course the best way to get your Vitamines..........
is from fresh grown fruit and produce. especially if you can be assured that these are organically grown,
preferably locally produced.
Three reasons : chemicals fertilizers, pesticides, and mono culture. And last but not least : Genetically modified foods (GM foods)
However Organic is not the end-all answer and neither is Bio-dynamic. Yet it is true that both farming practices are a great improvement on the commercial large scale practices where quantity is really the only consideration. Apparently it is alittle more complicated than not applying chemical fertilizer. Wine producers know that a high quality wine is not just a matter of Sugar Content, but of Brix. And although Brix content is related to the quality, it is not the same. A simple example : leaving grapes on the vine beyond their ripe stage, will most likely produce a higher sugar reading and thus a higher Brix reading, but this reading is in fact not indicative of a higher quality. A higher quality means a optimum balance of all ingredients : minerals, amino acids, etc.
See also the link to the very informative Interview.
As mentioned before, the rather intensive use of chemical fertilizers -especially nitrogen- has as a result a fast growing plant with a reduced mineral intake.
A lot of pesticides leave trace elements in the plant. Some are there on purpose to make the plant unattractive to insects or fungi etc., some are there by accident. The allowable limits may sound safe on the surface, but do little to explain the increase of all sorts of cancers in recent times.
Big Agro business cannot operate efficiently without the previously mentioned inputs and prefers to farm large acreages with little or no crop rotations (products that would return to the soil the necessary trace minerals) because they do have much commercial value in themselves as a commodity. Depleted soils do not make for very healthy, balanced plants, making them more vulnerable for attacks from all sorts of pests and diseases.
Elsewhere we will extensively discuss the horrors already happening because of genetically modified foods
You can of course also try to grow quite a bit of it yourself. For more information, check out Think Green , where you will a host of suggestions to turn your back yard into a little Garden of Eden.
Note to Farmers and/or Gardeners: If you really want to produce food that is nutrient dense, i.e. high in essential nutrients specific for the plant or animal, your starting point, which is your soil, should have at least the following:
4000 pounds calcium ,400 pounds magnesium ,400 pounds phosphate ,200 pounds potassium ,40 pounds nitrate nitrogen,
40 pounds ammonia nitrogen, (water-soluble available mineral elements per acre)
This is if you are truly looking for high quality (high Brix) and very high yield.