October 9, 2004

 nutritional supplements - b vitamins

b complex

i take 1 tablet a day, which gives me 100% of us rda of all the b vitamins.

from "prescription for nutritional healing:"

the b vitamins help to maintain health of the nerves, skin, eyes, hair, liver, and mouth, as well as healthy muscle tone in the gastrointestinal tract and proper brain function. b-complex vitamins [...] may be useful for alleviating depression or anxiety.

there's a passage in the book that actually indicates that there are people who have been diagnosed with alzheimer's disease whose problems were later found to be due to a deficiency of vitamin b12 plus the b complex. interesting.

a basic b complex is a good place to start, but you can take additional doses of specific b vitamins for a particular disorder.

a quick rundown of the b vitamins:

b1 - thiamine
enhances circulation, carbohydrate metabolism, and cognitive activity. thiamine also acts as an antioxidant, protecting the body from the degenerative effects of aging, alcohol consumption and smoking.

b2 - riboflavin
necessary for red blood cell formation, antibody production, cell respiration and growth. important in the treatment of cataracts. riboflavin also facilitates the use of oxygen by the tissues of the skin, nails, and hair. it's said to also help eliminate dandruff.

b3 - niacin
needed for proper circulation and healthy skin. lowers cholestrol and helpful for mental illnesses like schizophrenia. it is also a memory-enhancer. (i'll add that ray takes niacin periodically and his body immediately gets flushed red. that's the blood getting a turbo boost of circulation, i guess.)

b5 - pantothenic acid
known as the "anti-stress vitamin", it's also a stamina enhancer and prevents certain forms of anemia.

b6 - pyridoxine
pyridoxine is involved in more bodily functions than almost any other single nutrient. it affects both physical and mental health. it is beneficial if you suffer from water retention. it plays a role in cancer immunity and aids in the prevention of arteriosclerosis.

b12 - cyanocobalamin
helps in the utilization of iron. this vitamin is also require for proper digestion, absorption of foods and synthesis of protein. it also helps maintain fertility.

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September 30, 2004

 nutritional supplements - lysine


i take 1 1000mg capsule daily (no established rda)

this might seem silly, but i started taking l-lysine after my vet suggested that it would help my cat get over an illness. she seemed to want to recommend it before resorting to an antibiotic; lysine can aid in destroying viruses. (for instance, many sufferers of herpes virus use lysine as a primary course of treatment. it is also used to prevent cold sores & fever blisters.) anyway, i liked my vet's holistic approach, and decided to look into lysine for myself.

from "prescription for nutritional healing:"

lysine is an essential amino acid that is a necessary building block for all protein. it is needed for proper growth and bone development in children; it helps calcium absorption and maintains proper nitrogren balance in adults. [...] it helps in collagen formation and tissue repair. Because it helps to build muscle protein, it is good for those recovering from surgery and sports injuries.

there are some kinds of amino acids that can be manufactured in the body ("nonessential amino acids"), but lysine is not one of them (and is therefore termed an "essential amino acid"). essential amino acids must be obtained through diet (food and/or supplements).

deficiencies can result in anemia, hair loss, lack of energy, inability to concentrate, irritability, reproductive disorders and weight loss. food sources include cheese, eggs, fish, lima beans, milk, potatoes, red meat, soy products and yeast.

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September 22, 2004

 nutritional supplements - fish oil

fish oil

i take 1 1200mg softgel daily

like evening primrose oil, fish oil is an essential fatty acid. they share a lot of the same benefits and are both good sources of omega-3s.

a note on my dosage: the fish oil bottle suggests i take 3 softgels a day... since i also get omega-3s from evening primrose oil, i only take one of each a day.

most doctors believe that you should eat fish twice a week. since most people don't (and not all fish is safe), fish oil supplements are a good substitute.

even though the FDA has not endorsed fish oil as a "rda" supplement, the american heart association has come out in favor of fish consumption.

oil of pisces is the best website i've found regarding the health benefits of fish oil.

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September 12, 2004

 nutritional supplements - vitamin c

ok, here's an easy one: vitamin c

i take 1 1000mg tablet (1666% of rda)

you can't ever take too much vitamin c. if you consume more than your body can handle, you just end up peeing it out. i take a tablet every day, and if i feel myself getting sick i just take more.

from "prescription for nutritional healing:"

vitamin c is an antioxidant that is required for tissue growth and repair, adrenal gland function, and healthy gums. it also aids in the production of anti-stress hormones. it protects against the harmful effects of pollution, protects against infection, and enhances immunity. vitamin c enhances the absorption of iron. it also may reduce cholesterol levels and high blood pressure, and it protects agains blood clotting and promotes the healing of wounds and burns.

fwiw, alcohol, antidepressants and oral contraceptives may reduce levels of vitamin c in the body, as does smoking. taking vitamin e and vitamin c together helps both work more effectively.

also, if you're not getting enough vitamin c you may notice poor wound healing, soft and spongy bleeding gums, edema, lack of energy or joint pain.

to me, vitamin c is a no-brainer. it's cheap, too.

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September 8, 2004

 nutritional supplements - chromium


i take 1 200 mcg tablet of "chromium picolinate" daily (167% of rda)

this is the most recent addition to my regimen of nutritional supplements. i've only been taking it for a few weeks. i read that the average american diet is chromium deficient, then i read more about why chromium is essential... and i was convinced.

from "prescription for nutritional healing:"

because it is involved in the metabolism of glucose, chromium is needed for energy. it is also vital in the synthesis of cholestrol, fats and protein. this essential mineral maintains stable blood sugar levels through proper insulin utilization, and can be helpful both for people with diabetes and those with hypoglycemia. it can also promote the loss of fat and an increase in lean muscle tissue. studies show it may increase longevity and help fight osteoporosis.

a deficiency of chromium can lead to anxiety, fatigue, glucose intolerance, inadequate metabolism of amino acids, and an increased risk of ateriosclerosis. however, if you have diabetes DO NOT take supplemental chromium without first consulting your doctor. this supplement can affect insulin requirements, so you will have to monitor your blood sugar level very carefully.

finally, some people experience lightheadedness or a slight rash when taking chromium. if you experience these side effects, discontinue use.

chromium occurs naturally in beer, brewer's yeast, brown rice, cheese, meat, whole grains, mushrooms and potatoes.

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September 2, 2004

 nutritional supplements - iron


i take 1 25 mg tablet a day (136% of rda)

before i launch into any of the educational stuff about this mineral, i have to personally stress that if you're a menstruating woman you really need to strongly consider how important a role iron plays in your health. given your monthly blood loss, iron becomes essential in rebuilding your hemoglobin and keeping up the oxygen level in your blood cells. without a steady supply of iron in your blood you could become anemic. (i was, and now i'm religious about taking my iron supplement.)

from "prescription for nutritional healing:"

iron is required for a healthy immune system and for energy production. iron deficiency symptoms include anemia, brittle hair, difficulty swallowing, digestive disturbances, dizziness, fatigue, fragile bones, hair loss, imflammation of the tissues of the mouth, nails that are spoon-shaped or that have ridges running lengthwise, nervousness, obesity, pallor and slowed mental reactions.

BUT YOU MUST BE CAREFUL ABOUT TAKING TOO MUCH IRON. read your labels and get as close to 100% of rda as you can. too much iron results in free radicals, and could also lead to heart disease and cancer.

iron is also found in eggs, fish, liver, meat, green leafy vegetables, and whole grains and cereals. if you eat a lot of these, you may want to consider getting a supplement the provides less than 100% rda.

the iron supplement i take also happens to contain mangnesium. this helps aid iron absorption into the body. (also helpful is vitamin c... it can increase iron absorption by 30%.) however, excessive amounts of zinc and vitamin e interfere with iron absorption.

finally, do not take iron if you have an infection. "the body 'hides' iron in the liver when an infection is present. taking extra iron at such time encourages the proliferation of bacterian in the body."

iron is tricky in that you NEED it... but if you get too much, that can be bad.

i'm guessing that most of the people reading this are women... and i hope you all take the time to research how important an iron supplement can be.


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August 31, 2004

 nutritional supplements - biotin


i take 1 1000mcg tablet daily (333% of rda)

this is a vitamin i began taking solely because of my alopecia.

from "prescription for nutritional healing"

sufficient quantities of biotin are needed for healthy hair and skin. one hundred milligrams of biotin daily may prevent hair loss in some men. biotin also promotes healthy sweat glands, nerve tissue, and bone marrow. in addition, it helps to relieve muscle pain.

a deficiency of biotin can cause anemia, depression, hair loss, high blood sugar, inflammation or pallor of the skin and mucous membranes, insomnia, loss of appetite, muscular pain, nausea and soreness of the tongue.

it's funny, isn't it, that a vitamin you've never heard of could be so essential to so many things...

every time i visit my dermatologist for my hair loss, i hear "biotin, biotin, biotin." i even have a biotin shampoo (which i admit i have abandoned in favor of curlfriends ;-)

i should also admit that my alopecia hasn't been cured (nor will it ever be, i suspect) but i feel like the hair i DO have has gotten healthier since i've been taking the biotin supplement.

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August 28, 2004

 nutritional supplements - vitamin e

vitamin e

i currently take 1 400 iu softgel each day (1333% of daily value)

from "prescription for nutritional healing"

vitamine e is an antioxidant that is important in the prevention of cancer and cardiovascular disease. it improves circulation, is necessary for tissue repair, and is useful in treating premenstrual symdrome... [snip] ... it reduces scarring from wounds, reduces blood pressure, aids in preventing cataracts... [snip] ... in addition, it promotes healthy skin and hair, and helps to prevent anemia...

goodness, i just learned something.. it also says, "if you take both vitamine e and iron supplements, take them at different times of the day." it sounds like iron can either *destroy* vitamin e or leave it intact, depending on which variety of iron you're taking.

vitamin e is also found in vegetable oils, green leafy vegetables, nuts, and whole grains.

i first discovered vitamin e after i had my carpal tunnel surgery in 2002. my orthopaedist said that to reduce scarring i could just puncture one softgel and rub the vitamin e directly onto the wound. when i read more about it (particularly the part about healthy hair, and --once again-- PMS) i decided to start taking supplements every day.

not a bad idea to try to fend off cancer, either. both cervical and breast cancer run in my family.

i generally buy the nature made brand, but only because you can earn points on their website when you purchase their products.

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August 27, 2004

 nutritional supplements - evening primrose oil

when ray came into my life a lot of things changed.

the obvious stuff, of course... but there were also weird, small things that changed that i didn't expect.

vitamin supplements, for instance.

ray takes a lot of supplements. before i met him, i was lucky if i took a multivitamin a couple times a week. the longer we were together, the more i learned about the benefits of some of these supplements and the more appealing they seemed. one of my co-workers is quite passionate about nutrition, too, and at the peak of my interest she shared with me her copy of "prescription for nutritional healing".

what an amazing book. i pored over hundreds of pages of information about vitamins, minerals, and herbs. i also devoured the information about specific ailments and which supplements would provide beneficial treatment... treatment not just for the symptoms but the illness itself. (hence the word "healing" in the title of the book...)

suffice to say, i currently take about a dozen supplements a day (and now own my own copy of The Book). last week lisa suggested i do a series of entries on this topic, in order to share what i've learned over the past few years. i thought that was a fine idea.

i should first state that i'm absolutely NOT an expert, nor am i advocating you take any of these supplements without first checking with your doctor. i simply want to share a little of what i've learned. please don't consider any of this information to be complete, either. do your own investigation before deciding to add any of these supplements to your diet.

there. now that that's done, let's start with an interesting one:

evening primrose oil

i currently take 1 1000mg softgel a day of this "essential fatty acid."

first of all, a quick definition of EFAs:

from "prescription for nutritional healing:"

essential fatty acids have desirable effects on many disorders. they improve the skin and hair, reduce blood pressure, aid in the prevention of arthritis, lower cholesterol... [snip] ...found in high concentrations in the brain, EFAs aid in the transmission of nerve impulses and are needed for the normal development and functioning of the brain. a deficiency of EFAs can lead to an impaired ability to learn and recall information.

there are a two categories of essential fatty acids... omega 3s and omega 6s. i don't think i need to bore you with the difference between the two... just know that both are essential. (duh. that's how they got their name.)

evening primrose oil is an omega 3.

primrose oil contains the highest amount of gamma linolenic acid (GLA) of any food substance. this fatty acid is known to help prevent hardening of the arteries, heart disease, premenstrual syndrome, multiple sclerosis, and high blood pressure. it relieves pain and inflammation; enhances the release of sex hormones, including estrogen and testosterone; aids in lowering cholesterol levels; and is beneficial for cirrhosis of the liver.

i've been taking this supplement for probably close to a year, and though it's hard to discern a clear "before & after" (primarily because i began taking a lot of my supplements at the same time, and it's difficult to attribute positive effects to one solitary supplement) i feel like i can safely say that my PMS is more under control than it used to be.

i mean, i still crave pizza the day before my period comes, but i'm now far less likely to rip off the delivery man's face for being 10 minutes late.

what's more difficult to assess is how evening primrose oil might be helping my heart and arteries. i'll just have to assume it does... my blood pressure is quite low (100/70, usually). also, my new doctor was pleased when i told him i was taking primrose oil daily.

i personally have experienced no adverse side effects from evening primrose oil, and The Book recommends that the daily requirement of EFAs (both omega 3s and 6s) "be satisfied by an amount equivalent to 10-20% of total caloric intake". (eh?) since there is no "us rda" value on the bottle, i just take one softgel a day as the label suggests.

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