Let food be thy medicine and medicine be thy food. ~Hippocrates

Archive for the ‘Supplements’ Category

Supplements and Your Doctor


We assume we can and should trust our doctors – as it should be. We go to him or her for life impacting advice and treatment. So what if your doctor suggests you take vitamins or nutritional supplements s/he conveniently has for sale in the office? Should you take get bait?

The American Medical Association frowns on the ethics of doctors selling supplements. For one thing, doctors are not trained nutrition professionals. They study a perfunctory numbers of hours in nutrition sciences. A registered dietitian or dietetic technician studies nutrition science and has more education and experience than an MD, unless s/he has specifically and intentionally studied it in his/her training.

Doctors can diagnose, through blood work and symptoms, nutritional deficiencies and may prescribe medications or supplements a patient can purchase at the pharmacy. But never should s/he offer them for sale in the office.

When there is a profit motive, which is the only reason a physician is selling vitamins and supplements, one must question his/her ethics.

See this short video link.

http://www.medscape.com/viewarticle/823569?nlid=55703_439&src=wnl_edit_medp_publ&spon=42

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Living with Vegans


Please forgive my hiatus. Between a new job and studying for my national registration, my brain could not focus on anything else. Yes, I passed the exam; thanks for wondering. Now that I am on vacation, I can get back to business. (Now that’s an oxymoron!)

Today’s topic of conversation is veganism. Two of my sons’ friends are vegans. It started with a personal challenge, then they kept on doing it. It has been three and a half years for one; 4 years for the other. At the beginning, they ate all kinds of “imitation” foods like fake bacon and fake hot dogs. I questioned them about the spirit of going vegan, and the contradiction of eating foods that would be unhealthy if they were real. Further, they were eating a lot of processed foods, with ingredient lists 3 inches long. Since then, they have grown and become more educated about eating a healthy vegan diet.

Many people approach the decision to go vegetarian or vegan without enough information. While it is a healthy lifestyle choice, one must adhere to some nutrition guidelines to ensure healthy intake of essential nutrients. Giving up animal products entirely (strict vegan) presents a few challenges that can be overcome with attention to the diet.

The staples of the vegan diet should include: vegetables, fruits, whole grains, nuts, soy and seeds. The less processing, the better, to provide the best nutritional quality.

Plant based diets contain sufficient protein, iron, calcium, omega 3 fatty acids, vitamin D, iodine, and zinc. A crucial ingredient missing from the diet however, is Vitamin B-12, which is necessary for proper nerve and brain function. Lack of it, over an extended period of time can cause irreversible damage to the nervous system. Some soy and rice drinks are fortified with B-12, as well as breakfast cereals and nutritional yeast.

Animal products provide the most efficiently absorbed form of iron. When eliminated from the diet, extra care must be taken to ensure enough of this vital element. Iron is plentiful in fortified cereals, legumes and soy, dark leafy green vegetables, whole grains, dried fruits, nuts, seeds, molasses and potatoes with skins. Iron is absorbed from cast iron cookware. To boost the absorption of iron, consume foods with vitamin C along with iron-rich foods. Vitamin C is plentiful in citrus fruit, peppers, tomatoes, dark greens (like kale and collard greens) cabbage and broccoli. Note however, that iron and calcium compete for the same absorption receptors, so they should not be eaten together. Caffeine also interferes with iron absorption, therefore should be avoided at mealtimes.

Consume protein rich tofu, tempeh, nuts, seeds, soy (milk and other products), whole grains, legumes and vegetables daily.

Calcium can be a challenge if meals are not carefully thought out. Dark green leafy vegetables, beans, some tofu, almonds, seaweed, fortified soy milk, beans, figs, and unrefined molasses supply calcium. Vitamin D is required for calcium absorption. You can get it by exposing your skin to sun 10-15 minutes per day or by consuming fortified soy or rice milk or a supplement.

Omega-3 fatty acids
Omega-3 fatty acids include ALA, EPA and DHA. Alpha-linolenic acid (ALA) is found mainly in the oil of flaxseeds, hemp seeds, walnuts, rapeseed (canola oil), and soybeans. ALA reduces blood clotting, and is good for the heart. The body converts some of the ALA into two other essential omega-3 fats called EPA and DHA. These two are also found to a small degree in seaweeds, and there are vegan DHA supplements available made from micro-algae. Low levels of DHA have been associated with depression. A tablespoon of ground flaxseeds or a teaspoon of flax oil per day will meet the needs of most people.

You need iodine for normal cell metabolism, and it is easy to get enough if you used iodized salt. Fancy salts such as sea salt, are not iodized. If you use them, you need to get your iodine elsewhere. It is found in seaweed and some vitamins.

Zinc is important for would healing. Rich sources include eggs, dairy, nuts, seeds, sprouts, legumes, whole grains, tofu, tempeh, miso, millet and quinoa.

Being a vegan or vegetarian can be a healthy lifestyle choice. It will require more attention to your diet however, to ensure adequate nutrient intake.

Are Your Supplements Safe?


Most people don’t realize that supplements are not regulated in the same way that drugs are. The FDA has, in recent years, began to strengthen compliance. It started inspecting manufacturers’ facilities and found appalling conditions in over half of those it inspected. As law stands now, supplement manufacturers can sell products without proof of effectiveness. The burden of proof that it is unsafe, is up to those who suffer negative consequences. Supplement manufacturers voluntarily comply only with good manufacturing practices. Without stringent standards, like one imposed on drug companies, the industry is conceivably free to produce, for human consumption, tainted and dangerous products that you can buy at the health food store.

This article, published in the Chicago Tribune, is alarming. Be informed. It’s your body. The best way to get your nutrients is to eat a balanced diet. If you must use supplements, proceed with caution.

article from Chicago Tribune

Vitamins. Do you Need Them or Not?


There is an ongoing controversy about whether or not to take vitamins and supplements. There would be less debate if we all ate a balanced diet, but the reality is that it rarely happens. Still, one must wonder. The vitamin and supplement market is enormous – $68 billion worldwide. Yes, that is BILLION!

My greatest concern is not that we aren’t getting enough vitamins (with exception of  malnourished individuals), but we may be getting too much. In some cases, it can do more harm than good. Fat soluble vitamins like A, D, E and K remain in your tissues and can build up toxic stores. Vitamin D is an exception as the upper limit is high, and more of us suffer from deficiency of Vitamin D than an overabundance. More on that in a future post. Though less risky, even water soluble vitamins in mega doses can be harmful. Further, supplements are not regulated by the FDA. That means there are no standards and you can’t be certain about the ingredients in the bottle. And no one is checking.

As a general rule, a daily vitamin is cheap and safe insurance to be sure that you are getting what you need if you skip the healthy, well balanced meal plan. It is not a license however, to eat poorly or to overindulge. Food quality and variety count. It is safe to take a formulation for your age, such as a senior vitamin for women. It will provide more calcium and Vitamin D as postmenopausal women’s bones need more support. Women in childbearing years for example, would benefit from a formulation made for them. It would include more folate, which is essential for the fetus’s developing brain and needed early in a pregnancy – before a woman may realize she is pregnant. It  also contains iron which is needed for premenopausal women.

So feel free to take a good daily vitamin supplement, with around 100% of the recommended daily allowances and supplement only up to the daily recommendations if more of a substance is required. Eat according to the Healthy Plate recommendations (www.health.harvard.edu/plate/healthy-eating-plate) and get at least 30 minutes of moderate exercise at least 5 times per week.

 

Supplements: What you don’t know


I heard a radio ad yesterday claiming men could regain their virility if they took their product, a testosterone-like formula. WOW! Their marketing department really knows how to get a man to part with his money fast! But is it true? Is it safe? Will it react negatively with any other medications or conditions that man may have in addition to low libido? Do they care?

Supplements were created to provide nutrients people could not get enough of with normal food intake. As we began to rely on heavily processed food, we lost many natural nutrients. We began fortifying and enriching our foods with the very vitamins and minerals that were lost in the processing. (Hence, a good argument for returning to whole, unprocessed foods, but that’s for a future blog entry.) Supplements helped cure conditions of vitamin and mineral deficiencies. They came into existence for excellent reasons. But what happens when the free market sees it as a big money-making opportunity? In our culture of “more is better,” does this apply to supplements too?

Most people don’t realize a very few important things: (1) there is such a thing as a toxic level for certain vitamins and minerals, (2) some minerals interfere with how our body uses the nutrients we take in and (3) the FDA (Food and Drug Administration) does not regulate supplements the way drugs are regulated. When you buy a drug, the quantities, effects and trials ensure you are getting what you think you are getting. When you take a supplement, it is truly “buyer beware.”

Many reputable supplement manufacturers follow good manufacturing practices (GMP), which are industry defined. The government regulates supplements like it does food, which only ensures that they are produced under sanitary conditions and are produced consistently. There is no guarantee of safety, that they contain what the manufacturer claims they do, that they are free from harmful substances like pesticides (in herbals) or lead (if produced outside the US where manufacturing and labeling is even less reliable). You really can’t be sure what is in that capsule you are taking, in hopes of keeping you healthy. If you are sure it makes you feel better, remember the placebo effect can be a factor too.

There is no testing requirement and no warning of side effects, long terms affects, food or drug interactions, or precautions, like there is with drugs. There is no guarantee of consistent quality and there is no guarantee that the supplement does what it promises to do.

This is not to say that supplements don’t have their place or that some manufacturers are more reputable than others. But when dallying in  self-prescribed pharmacopeia, one must know it is not without possible harm or even danger.

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