Archive for the ‘Vitamins and Minerals’ category

How To Increase Food Absorption

As I said before, digestive enzymes are my favourite supplement because without digestive enzymes we can’t get all the nutrients we need from our food. Although taking them in supplement form can very beneficial (especially if you suffer from indigestion), there are other ways to get the most from your food.

1. Vitamin A/beta carotene and Iron – A study carried out in Venezuela found that by adding either vitamin A or beta carotene to cereals-based diets, iron absorption increased by between 0.8 and 3 times. Some foods that contain vitamin A: Sweet Potato, Carrots and Spinach

2. Take vitamin C to absorb Chromium, Zinc and Iron – By simply drinking a glass of orange juice with a meal you will increase the absorption of Chromium, Zinc and Iron. Other foods that contain Vitamin C: Red and Green Peppers, Tomatoes and Broccoli.

3. Ginger – ginger has been used in China and India for around 5000 years as a “cure-all”. Just one of the reasons to include ginger in your diet is that it can help digestive movement through the stomach and stimulates digestive enzymes. Either use it in cooking, such as stir fries or curries, or drink it as a Tea.

4. Mint – Ever wonder why mint and lamb is such a popular combination? Well, it’s because mint aids digestion by stimulating the flow of bile to the stomach as well as calming the muscles of the digestive system. Perhaps it’s also the reason so many restaurants give out mints at the end of a meal?

5. Lycopene and Tomatoes – A tomato has been genetically modified to have 3 times as much lycopene as normal tomatoes. This may sound great but is there really any point? If you want to make sure that you have plenty of lycopene in your diet, simply grill or fry your tomato lightly. The heat naturally increases lycopene levels. Processed foods containing tomatoes such as ketchup and baked beans are also ideal.

6. Brown Rice – it was discovered over 100 years ago that some Javanese prisoners were suffering from beriberi whilst others weren’t. It was found that those who ate white rice had the disease but those who ate brown rice were fine. Some years later it was found that the reason for this is because thiamine/vitamin B1 is found in the outside of the grain (ie the brown bit).

I was brought up eating brown rice so I enjoy it but many people prefer white. If this is the case you can buy Rice Bran and add it to a milkshake/protein shake. It’s also a gentler way to get fibre in your diet compared to the likes of Psyllium which is quiet harsh on the stomach.

7. Never chew gum on an empty stomach
– a lot of people like to chew gum because they think it’ll help them lose weight because they aren’t eating. The problem is that the act of chewing tells our body to produce digestive enzymes. Obviously when we chew gum nothing actually goes into our stomach which means our bodies are producing enzymes that it doesn’t need to.

As I explained in a previous blog post about digestive enzymes, we don’t have an unlimited supply of them. So by chewing gum on an empty stomach can cause problems later on with indigestion and malabsoption of nutrients as well as irritating the lining of your stomach.

8. Avoid drinking tea with your meal – although tea has many health benefits, it seems that we shouldn’t drink it with our meals. This is because tea generally contains caffeine and can interfere with iron absorption. This is particularly bad for women who tend to have lower levels of iron. Avoid drinking tea for an hour either side of a meal.

9. Some other foods that aid digestion – pineapple (contains Bromelain), papaya (contains Papain), figs, licorice and bean sprouts.

Buy Cheap Supplements

Over the years I’ve noticed some “anomalies” when it comes to the price of health products. Many companies take advantage of the fact that people want to take care of their bodies and will often pay a lot of money for a “magic pill” instead of just eating healthily.

Here are a few examples of cheap and not so cheap supplements I’ve come across over the years.

Saw Palmetto and Pumpkin Seeds v Prostate Care

When flicking through a vitamin catalogue I noticed that the company was selling two products which at first glance are very different. One was a bottle of “Saw Palmetto and Pumpkin Seeds” caps whilst the other was for “Prostate Care”. It made me chuckle when I looked closer at the ingredient list and saw that they are exactly the same product. The only difference was the price. The “Prostate Care” product was much more expensive.

Tea Tree Essential Oil v Tea Tree Aromatherapy Oil

When buying some tea tree oil the other month for my sun burn I found myself rather confused. Sitting next to each other was a bottle of “Tea Tree Essential Oil” and a bottle of “Tea Tree Aromatherapy Oil”. Both of these products were by the same company, both products contained 100% Tea Tree Oil and both contained exactly the same amount of oil. Yet the aromatherapy oil was a lot more expensive.

OK, I’m not an expert on aromatherapy but I have dabbled with it over the years, for the life of me I can’t figure out why there’s a price difference. Does it cost more to print the word “Aromatherapy”?

OptiMSM v OptiMSM

MSM is a product I’ve started to take again as it’s supposed to be beneficial for your hair, skin and nails. When I bought my MSM a couple of years ago I found out that one of the major manufacturers is OptiMSM who sell their powder to other companies. These companies then package the powder into capsules, cream and mix it in with other products such as Glucosamine. When shopping around I noticed that Swanson sold this exact same MSM considerably cheaper than other brands Swanson stocked at the time.

I find it amazing that companies will charge different amounts for the same product all because they think they can get away with it.  Do yourself a favor and avoid buying expensive supplements based on branding.  Although there is the risk of cheap supplements being of inferior quality, buying cheap supplements should be done after you have done your research.

Can Sunscreen Cause Rickets?

When I was very young all school children in the UK would get a free carton of milk everyday to prevent rickets. Then Margaret Thatcher came along and put an end to it. People used to think that rickets was a thing of the past however some are seeing a great increase in diseases like this directly linked to vitamin D deficiency.

What causes vitamin D deficiency?  If you eat a lot of fruit and vegetables along with taking a daily multivitamin, having a vitamin deficiency probably wouldn’t even cross your mind. However, a staggering number of people over the last several years have been diagnosed with just that.

Understanding Vitamin D

The human body receives vitamins mostly from food. But in the case of vitamin D, it is also produced in the body by sun exposure.

Vitamin D’s job is to help maintain the level of calcium and phosphorus in the blood. It also aids in the absorption of calcium.

Concerns of a Vitamin D Deficiency

Over the last several years there has been a great increase in vitamin D deficiency. This has lead scientists to research what importance this vitamin plays in the body and what a lack of it can do.

Cancers, high blood pressure, diabetes, multiple sclerosis, lupus, and arthritis are some of the illnesses believed to be caused, in part, by a lack of vitamin D.

Why the Increase in Deficiencies?

It is believed that more people now are suffering from this because we are not exposing our skin to the sun as we once did. With the increased fear of skin cancer, more and more people are covering up when spending time outdoors. Sunscreens also block out the UV rays needed.

There are also large communities of people from Asia and Africa who are now living in colder climates which makes it more difficult for them to obtain enough sunlight.

Beauty experts are also recommending that we use moisturiser and makeup with a UV filter – even in the winter. This may be fine if you live near the equator but if you live in the UK like me then you’re probably putting yourself at risk of rickets.

Another reason is that people are just spending more time indoors. From home to work and the computer in the car, people are just not getting out in the sun.

People are struggling to ingest enough vitamins to make up the difference plus you have to consciously be aware of what foods contain vitamin D.

glass of milkPrevention

Taking a multivitamin is a good place to start since they are designed to have all the nutrients we need. Increasing your fatty fish consumption is another along with drinking milk which is fortified with Vitamin D. Green leafy vegetables such as spinach along with almonds, garlic, chives and oats are good dietary sources.

Get outside. Our skin needs the sun to produce the vitamin D we need. It’s also very important to take the proper measures to prevent skin cancer. Since our preventive measures are in part reducing our sun exposure and disabling our bodies from producing the necessary vitamin, finding a balance may be difficult.

I understand the need for sun, the problem is that I have very pale skin and so burn very easily. At the weekend I was out in the sun from 4:30pm to about 5:15pm and got burnt on my shoulders.

Life’s never straight forward!

What’s Really in Your Supplements?

This doesn’t really affect me as I live in the UK, however it appears that the FDA are going to be cracking down on health supplements. The problem until now is that supplements are viewed as being food which is something that some manufacturers have been abusing.

I remember seeing a TV show a few years ago about the appetite suppressing qualities of Hoodia. The presenter went to Africa to try it for himself, and sure enough he didn’t want to eat anything for 24 hours.

Unfortunately the world is full of people who would sell their Granny for a quick buck, which means many pills have appeared on the market claiming to be Hoodia when in fact it’s just caffeine.

The new rules set out by the FDA means that as of 24 August, this “will help ensure that dietary supplements are manufactured with controls that result in a consistent product free of contamination, with accurate labeling,” said Dr. Robert E. Brackett, director of FDA’s Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition.

This surely has to be good news? The problem with many alternative therapies is that it can take some months for symptoms to improve, so you never really know if what you’re buying is the real deal.  The same thing goes with stuff like how to cleanse your liver.

Are There Any Reasons to Take a Multi-Vitamin?

Why is it that obtaining optimum health is so confusing? Everyday you’ll read conflicting information about all sorts of health products and diets. The same goes for vitamins. It’s fairly safe to say that a daily multi-vitamin will help prevent symptoms of vitamin or mineral deficiencies.

With so many tasks to fit into every day life, it can be difficult to make sure that our diet is full of all the nutrients necessary to our health. Also, the thought of preparing a meal from scratch after a hard day’s work means that many people eat out at restaurants and fast food outlets instead. While convenient, the truth is that people are losing control of what they eat. Restaurant food offers portion sizes that are often double and even triple what they should be. Preparation methods generally involve using artery-clogging oils, and other saturated fats.

But eating out isn’t the only problem. Stress wreaks havoc on the body, and often works to diminish whatever nutritional value people are getting from their food. It’s difficult to escape stress, and eating on the run, and eating at odd times during the day. Plus, be honest, just how often do you skip meals because you’re just “too busy”?

Nutritionally-void foods, stress, insufficient exercise, and generally poor eating habits spell disaster when it comes to eating a balanced diet. Yet these are the very reasons why so many people are choosing to supplement their diets with multivitamins.

If the above scenario sounds like the way you live your life, there’s a good chance you’ll benefit from a daily multivitamin supplement. It’s usually not necessary to first consult with a doctor. If your health overall is good, and you’re not taking any medication, a multivitamin that meets recommended daily allowances will be sufficient.

What Happens to Excess Vitamins?

In general, over-supplementation isn’t much of a problem with water-soluble vitamins such as B and C. If your body experiences too much of these vitamins then they will be passed via your urine. It’s still a good idea to check what the symptoms of over-supplementation are, for instance vitamin C can cause diarrhea.  Just look at these diarrhea statistics.

Fat soluble vitamins such as Vitamin A and D, are different in that the body will store excess amounts. But still, even at levels that are slightly higher than the recommended daily allowances, there shouldn’t be any adverse effects. Excessive consumption however is not advisable and may even trigger health complications.

Vitamins Are Found in Many Foods Already

As with many things in life, when taking a multivitamin supplement, moderation is key. Please be aware that a lot of the food you are eating already is probably supplemented with vitamins, cereals and orange juice for instance. As always, contact a doctor or nutritionist if you are at all unsure.

Once you have decided that a multivitamin supplement makes sense, the only thing left to do is go out and buy some. Multivitamin supplements are available in tablet or pill form and liquid form. I’ve also bought it in powder form which you’re supposed to mix in with a drink, unfortunately it made me want to GAG! With so many brands available, you may want to take time to read the labels or look for a familiar manufacturer. Select the form you’re more likely to take on a regular basis and you’ll be one step closer to having a healthy body!

Chromium + Diabetes + GMTV

This morning I was watching a feature on GMTV about diabetes, diet and supplements. They were talking about the progress of a diabetic lady who is currently on a Glycaemic Index (GI) diet under the advice of Patrick Holford, a well-known UK nutritionist.

I thought things were going very well, the lady featured talked about how easy the diet was, how she’s feeling much better and how, with the help of a consultant, has weaned herself of the medication.

Patrick then goes on further to talk about what foods have a low Glycaemic Load (low GL) and what supplements should be taken, including chromium and cinnamon.

So far, so good.

Then this other expert (sorry can’t remember what she does) starts to get really angry at Patrick accusing him that this low GL diet is nothing new, it’s simply common sense and that there’s no need for all these supplements because they can be obtained from your diet.

Wow, she really “got her knickers in a twist” over this. I wasn’t expecting that sort of behaviour on a morning TV show, especially since the diet appears to have worked. She accused Patrick of being irresponsible because people shouldn’t be coming off their medication simply because of a diet.

Luckily Patrick kept his cool and simply explained that there have been numerous tests to show that using chromium supplements have been shown to work and that the diabetic’s results speak for themselves.

Personally I think Patrick handled things very well. At no point did he suggest that anyone should dump their medication in favour of his diet.

Chloride Health Benefits

Chloride is better known as part of the double-act “sodium-chloride” otherwise known as table salt. It’s not a mineral you’ll read much about in the health magazines but it is still important to your health nonetheless.

Chloride is a type of electrolyte which works in conjunction with sodium and potassium. This particular electrolyte is found mainly in the body fluids surrounding cells. It works with the other members of the electrolyte family to help control fluids within the body and maintain electrolyte balance.

Because our bodies prefer to be pH neutral, chloride helps maintain this by reducing acid levels. Chlorides act as neutralizing agents and their work helps to bring the acid/alkaline level back into balance.

Within the stomach, you’ll find that chloride appears in the form of hydrochloric acid. In order for your body to effectively digest food, hydrochloric acid helps break the food down so that it can be absorbed by the small intestines.

In the liver, chloride may also help in the process of removing waste.

Sources of Chloride

You’ll find chloride in many processed foods such as ketchup, French fries, canned meats, canned vegetables and olives. Chloride is plentiful in processed foods because of the high levels of preservatives needed to keep these foods fresh.

Here in the UK there’s been a lot of bad press about salt. There’s been lot of TV ad campaigns encouraging us to reduce our salt intake because most people consume too much. However our bodies do require chloride and it’s suggested we take 750 mg/day.

Chloride Deficiencies

Because of the bad press salt has many people don’t realize that salt is required by our bodies, so instead of reducing salt intake they cut it out all together. This is what my boyfriend’s mother did and ended up in hospital due to weakness.

Low blood pressure and a general feeling of weakness are two symptoms of a chloride deficiency. When chloride levels drop the body usually experiences a simultaneous loss of potassium via the urine. A condition known as alkalosis can develop if acid levels in the body drop too low. This is a dangerous condition that causes the blood pH to become elevated.

If your body is not getting enough chloride and potassium you develop hypokalemic metabolic alkalosis and its symptoms cause the affected person to lose the ability to control muscle function. This in turn causes problems with breathing and swallowing, and if not addressed, may lead to death.  Learning about health is important, especially if you are wanting to build muscle quickly.

If you have suffered serious bouts of diarrhoea, vomiting, excessive use of diuretics, or excessive fluid loss due to sweat then this can create a deficiency of the mineral. Many athletes take supplements of salt because drinking more water that is lost in sweat can dilute the salt within the body. Also when you exercise salt is excreted through your sweat so it’s important that it’s replaced.

Calcium Health Benefits

Where would we be without calcium? A heap on the floor! Our bodies use 99% of calcium in our bones and teeth whilst the remaining 1% is found in soft tissues and blood. The mineral most prominent in the body, practically every food that is consumed contains some amount of calcium.

Why Your Body Needs Calcium

You’ll already know that calcium is needed for strong bones and teeth but it seems calcium is also needed for many other functions in the body. For instance, did you know that calcium helps regulate the rhythm of your heart beat? This is great for heart wellness.  Or that it helps nerves and muscles function correctly? In addition to this, it helps lower cholesterol levels as well as blood pressure and allows the blood clotting process to work. And if you’ve ever been told to drink a glass of milk before bed, there’s a reason for this advice. Calcium helps relieve insomnia.

Calcium Rich Food

There’s no excuse for not getting enough calcium into your diet. The most obvious choices include milk, cheese and yogurt. However you can also find calcium in tofu, dried beans and dark green vegetables. Many food producers also add calcium to cereals and orange juice. Eating drained sardines (and their bones) that have been packed in oil is another option.

How much calcium your body needs depends on your age. Infants and toddlers should get 400 and 600 mg respectively. Children should increase their intake of calcium to 800 and increase to 1200 mg/day as they near puberty. Teenagers need a lot of calcium because a significant amount of bone mass is being added during this stage of life. Adolescents and even young adults should aim to get 1200 mg/day. During pregnancy women should try to get between 1200 and 1500 mg/day of calcium. Men need 1000 mg/day but those age 65 and above need to increase their daily intake of calcium to 1500 mg/day.

Signs of Calcium Deficiency

When your body is low in calcium, you’ll see the effects in your bones first. They’ll become soft and brittle and if not addressed, you can develop osteoporosis. Osteoporosis is most prevalent in women during and after menopause

If children don’t consume enough calcium then they’ll suffer from growth-related problems including bone deformation. Rickets is another condition which used to be a thing of the past but is now starting to become a problem again. Decaying teeth, depression and spasms in the legs and arms are other noticeable symptoms of a calcium deficiency.

Drinking milk is probably the easiest way to obtain calcium and can help keep your teeth and bones strong for many years.