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This section provides details about each of the vitamins listed to the left. It also explains the deficiency conditions.
Two types or three?
Vitamins are broadly classified into two main types: water soluble and fat soluble. The water soluble vitamins include C and the B group, which includes: • • • • • • • • • • B1 thiamine B2 riboflavin B3 niacin B5 pantothenic acid B6 pyridoxine B12 cobalamin Folic acid or vitamin Bc Biotin or coenzyme R or viatmin H Choline Inositol
Water soluble vitamins are not stored efficiently in the body and need to be consumed in the daily diet to be available. This lack of storage is a two-edged sword. It does mean that vitamin B group vitamins need to be constantly replaced but the upside of this is that overdose and toxicity are very rare. The fat soluble vitamins are A, D, E and K. The body does have a capacity to store, or manufacture in the case of vitamin K, these vitamins. Again, this comes with benefits and costs. The benefit is that supplies can be a little more irregular than water soluble vitamins without causing a deficiency. The downside is that consuming too much of them can lead to overdosage and toxicity. So, why the possibility of three types implied in the heading? Well, although people are inclined to think that science has unravelled the mysteries of nutrition and everything is known about vitamins, the truth is quite different. Much is still to be learned about vitamins and research continues. Some substances have been identified that don't yet appear to have all of the characteristics of vitamins but are extremely like them. Perhaps it's time to simply add a third type. An example in this category is Coenzyme Q10 and details are provided about it in this section.
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What's here? On this page you can discover:
• • • • • • • • the forms of vitamin A, what it does for us, the effects of deficiency, how to get the most from food sources, how much you need to stay well, who may need more, its likely anti-cancer role, and warnings of toxicity ...and more.
The two main forms of vitamin A are:
• • Retinol and Beta-carotene
Retinol is the naturally occurring form of vitamin A found in animal products. Beta-carotene is also called the 'plant' vitamin A. It is a carotenoid which is converted into vitamin A in the liver. Beta-carotene is found in brightly colored fruit and vegetables, such as carrots from which carotene is named.
The functions of vitamin A
Vitamin A plays an important role in many of our body's functions, including:
• • • • • Our vision, especially in dim light. Bone growth. Reproduction, through roles in proper sperm formation and maintaining healthy fetuses in pregnant women. Cell division and cell differentiation (which is the process by which a cell decides what type of cell it is going to become). Helping to maintain the surface linings of the eyes and the respiratory, urinary, and intestinal tracts (when these linings break down, bacteria can enter the body and cause infection). Helping to maintain the skin and mucous membranes so that they act as a barrier to bacteria and viruses. Helping to regulate the immune system (which prevents or fights off infections by making white blood cells that destroy harmful bacteria and viruses.
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Helping lymphocytes (a type of white blood cell that fights infections) to function more effectively. Serving as antioxidants which protect cells from free radicals (which are potentially damaging by-products of oxygen metabolism that may contribute to the development of some chronic diseases). Helping to prevent cancer. Helping to slow the aging process.
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The symptoms and signs of vitamin A deficiency
The symptoms of a vitamin A deficiency include:
• • • • • • • • poor vision (night blindness), mouth ulcers, frequent infections, the scalp may become dry and have dandruff, and acne may occur. when vitamin A is lost through chronic diarrhea, through an overall inadequate intake, as is often seen with protein-calorie malnutrition, when there is an inadequate intake of protein, calories and zinc (these nutrients are needed to make Retinol which is essential for getting vitamin A from your liver and transporting vitamin A to your general circulation), when there is also an iron deficiency which limits the metabolism of vitamin A (iron supplements provided to iron deficient individuals can improve vitamin A nutrition as well as iron status), and when excessive alcohol intake depletes vitamin A stores (diets high in alcohol also usually do not provide recommended amounts of vitamin A).
Vitamin A deficiency can occur:
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Food sources of vitamin A
Vitamin A is found in animal foods such as whole eggs, whole milk and liver. Carotenoids are found in darkly colored fruits and vegetables.
What Destroys Vitamin A?
Vitamin A can be destroyed by:
• cooking, particularly when using copper or iron cooking utensils,
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• • • • • • • •
exposure to light and air (some is lost), soaking in water for some time, preservatives used in some processed meats (lowers its vitamin A content), and some vitamin A is lost in the fat during frying. serve fruits and vegetables raw whenever possible, keep vegetables (except sweet potatoes and winter squash) and fruits covered and refrigerated during storage, wash fruit and vegetables just before using them, and steam vegetables and braise, bake, or broil meats instead of frying.
To retain vitamin A in food:
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How much vitamin A do we need?
Recommended Dietary Allowances for vitamin A in micrograms (mcg) Retinol Activity Equivalents (RAE) and International Units (IUs) for children and adults
Age (years) 1-3 4-8 9-13 14-18 19 + Recommended Dietary Allowances Children Men Women Pregnancy 300 mcg or 1000 IU 400 mcg or 1333 IU 600 mcg or 2000 IU 900 mcg or 700 mcg or 750 mcg or 3000 IU 2330 IU 2500 IU 900 mcg or 700 mcg or 770 mcg or 3000 IU 2330 IU 2565 IU Lactation
1200 4000 1300 4335
mcg or IU mcg or IU
For infants, Adequate Intake for vitamin A in micrograms (mcg) and International Units (IU) is shown in the small table below. Note that there is insufficient information to establish a RDA for vitamin A for infants. An adequate intake (AI) has been established that is based on the amount of vitamin A consumed by healthy infants who are fed breast milk.
Age (months) 0 to 6 7 to 12 Adequate Intake For Infants Males and Females 400 mcg or 1330 IU 500 mcg or 1665 IU
It is very important for anyone who consumes excessive amounts of alcohol to include good sources of dietary vitamin A. However, Vitamin A supplementation may not be recommended for individuals who abuse alcohol because alcohol may increase any liver toxicity associated with the excess intakes of vitamin A.
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Who may need extra vitamin A to prevent a deficiency?
The World Health Organization (WHO) and the United Nations International Children's Emergency Fund (UNICEF) have issued a joint statement about vitamin A and children's health. Both agencies recommend vitamin A supplements for:
• All children diagnosed with measles in communities where vitamin A deficiency is a serious problem and where death from measles is greater than 1%. Children 6-24 months of age who had been hospitalized with measles and hospitalized children older than 6 months. Fat malabsorption that can lead to diarrhea and prevent normal absorption of vitamin A. Cystic fibrosis, sprue, pancreatic disorders, and after stomach surgery; and Vegetarians who do not consume eggs and dairy foods need greater amounts of provitamin A (carotenoids) to meet their needs.
In 1994, the American Academy of Pediatrics recommended vitamin A supplementation for:
Other people who may need vitamin A supplements include people with:
• • •
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Vitamin A, beta carotene and cancer
Vitamin A (and in particular beta carotene) has recently been identified as a powerful antioxidant and therefore anti-carcinogen. There is evidence that a higher intake of green and yellow vegetables or other food sources of beta-carotene and/or vitamin A may decrease the risk of lung cancer, bladder cancer and skin cancers associated with excessive exposure to sunlight. However, the studies on this are still not entirely conclusive. Back to Top
Vitamin A toxicity
Questions have been raised concerning the toxicity of vitamin A, which is known to be concentrated in the liver. Symptoms of vitamin A excess include:
• • • • • hair loss, headaches, dizziness and blurred vision, gastrointestinal disturbances (such as nausea and diarrhea), skin inflammation and itchiness, and poor muscular coordination and possibly reduced bone mineral density.
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Toxic symptoms can also arise after consuming very large amounts of vitamin A over a short period of time. Beta-carotene does not cause toxicity. Pregnant women and those planning pregnancy should not take in excess of 7,500 IU of vitamin A per day because of the risk of birth defects. Also avoid eating animal livers because of the high concentration of vitamin A in livers. Over the past 15 years, synthetic retinoid has been prescribed for acne, psoriasis, and other skin disorders and is considered an effective anti-acne therapy. At very high doses, however, it can be toxic, which is why this medication is usually saved for the most severe forms of acne. The most serious consequence of this medication is birth defects. It is extremely important for sexually active females who may become pregnant and who take these medications to use an effective method of birth control. Women of childbearing age who take these medications are advised to undergo monthly pregnancy tests to make sure they are not pregnant. More of this vitamin is required when:
• • • you consume alcohol, you are on a low-fat diet, or have a diet high in polyunsaturated fatty acids, if you smoke or live in a polluted area.
It may also be indicated if you suffer from diabetes or have an under-active thyroid gland. Be careful using vitamin A in pregnancy. It is a good idea to take vitamin A with vitamins E, B group and C, choline, essential fatty acids, calcium, phosphorus and zinc for the best results.
Vitamin B Group
The B group of vitamins is a collection of essential nutrients that have certain characteristics in common. They are water soluble and are usually found in similar food sources such as brewer's yeast, animal meats, cereals and vegetable proteins. The vitamin B group contains many individual vitamins including the following:
• • • • • • • • • Vitamin B1 (thiamine) Vitamin B2 (riboflavin) Vitamin B3 (niacin) Vitamin B5 (pantothenic acid) Vitamin B6 (pyridoxine) Vitamin B12 (cobalmin) Folic acid or vitamin Bc Biotin or coenzyme R or vitamin H Choline
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For further details on each of the above follow the menu links to left. The vitamin B complex is an extremely important group of vitamins that the body must have to enable it to:
1. change food into energy, 2. maintain a strong immune system, 3. balance many of the body's hormones,
and perform a wide variety of other tasks. The B vitamins work together as a complex and are dependent upon each other to perform their individual tasks in the body. The insufficient intake of one B vitamin can create imbalances and deficiencies in others and impair the body's ability to assimilate and metabolize them. If a depletion or excess of one over the others occurs for a period of any duration, there will be a problem in the entire complex. Because of this relationship between the B vitamins, an isolated deficiency of only one B vitamin is rarely seen, except for vitamin B12. For example someone with a vitamin B2 deficiency may have red, greasy facial skin which might also be caused by a coexistent vitamin B6 deficiency. It is usual therefore, that when a deficiency of one of the vitamins is suspected, a B complex is taken as a supplement. However, while the B vitamins should be taken as a complex, in cases where there is a condition or problem caused by the deficiency of a particular B vitamin, the single B vitamin may be taken in a therapeutic dosage for a short time and the B complex taken as well.
Early warning signs of vitamin B deficiency
Dr Myron Brin has recently identified the sequence of events that occur when we undergo increasing deficiency of vitamin B complex. 1. At first the signs of a vitamin B deficiency are not recognizable and are to do with the running down of existing tissue stores. 2. If the low intake continues then we develop physical and psychological disturbances with symptoms such as:
• • • • • • • • insomnia, recurring bad dreams, inability to concentrate, depression, anxiety and mood swings, aggressive changes in children, muscle pain of unknown origin, alternating constipation and diarrhea, and
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fatigue and muscle weakness.
3. If the vitamin B complex stores continue to be depleted then we develop more serious signs and symptoms of diseases such as beri-beri (vitamin B1 deficiency) and pellagra (vitamin B3 deficiency). Ill health will continue until death. For most people in the western world our level of vitamin deficiency is not associated with severe symptoms like beri-beri. We are more likely to have the chronic psychological changes. There are many symptoms and signs of a vitamin B complex deficiency including:
• emotional disturbances such as: ○ ○ ○ • mild to severe depression; vague fears, morbid thoughts, feeling that something dreadful is going to happen, uneasiness to panic, apprehension; mood swings, rage, hostility, suspicion, anxiety, nervousness, inability to handle stress, insomnia or sleep disturbances; mental confusion, loss of ability to concentrate, impaired intellect, loss of memory, and headaches, digestive problems, hypochlorhydria (insufficient stomach acid production), constipation or diarrhea, stomach pains with decreased or increased appetite, craving for sweets, soreness of the mouth, sore throat, difficulty swallowing, weakness; fatigue; light headedness or dizziness; heart palpitations; chest pains;
mental disturbances, including: ○ ○ ○ ○ ○
digestive disturbances including: ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○
muscular and nervous disturbances including: ○ ○ ○ ○ ○
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○ ○ ○ ○ ○ • ○ ○ ○
neuralgia to neuritis; muscular soreness; pain, tingling or ache; cold hands and feet; and heightened sensitivity to touch and/or pain; dermatitis, acne, burning or itching eyes.
skin disturbances including:
There are many lifestyle and physiological factors that can prevent us from having sufficient B complex vitamins. These factors include:
• • • smoking, excess alcohol consumption, the use of prescription or over the counter drugs, particularly those on long term drugs such as anticonvulsants, certain antibiotics and oral contraceptives, pregnancy and lactation, physical energy output, very warm or cold climates, wound, burns or post traumatic stress, psychological distress, unique personal requirements due to specific genetic individuality, environmental factors such as radiation, smog or lowered exposure to sunlight, and eating calorie rich diets which are mainly fat and sugars.
• • • • • • • •
Vitamin B1 - Thiamine
Thiamine is an important member of the B group.
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The functions of vitamin B1 (thiamine)
Vitamin B1 is a powerful antioxidant that is necessary for regulating and normalizing the conversion of glucose into energy. It provides the neurons (nerve cells) with important building blocks needed for energy production and increases blood flow in memory tissue. Vitamin B1 is important for:
• • • • • • detoxification; heart function; improving the mental state; promoting growth; toning muscles of the intestines, stomach, and heart; and the overall health of the nervous system.
The body requires higher amounts of B1 when increased calories are consumed, particularly starches and sugars. Thiamine is easily destroyed by: air, water, coffee, alcohol, estrogen and food additives. Increased amounts of vitamin B1 may be needed with the use of antibiotics, sulfa drugs, and oral contraceptives.
The symptoms and signs of vitamin B1 deficiency
In the most severe form, vitamin B1 deficiency results in beri-beri. This is relatively uncommon except in alcoholics. A less severe deficiency can result in symptoms including:
• • • • • • • • • fatigue, depression, constipation and other gastrointestinal disturbances, edema, enlarged liver, forgetfulness, loss of appetite, atrophy of muscle tissue, and numbness of the legs or tingling sensations.
It is interesting to note that 30% of those entering psychiatric wards are deficient in thiamine.
Food sources of vitamin B1
The foods that contain vitamin B1 include: brewer's or nutritional yeast, brown rice, egg yolks, fish, legumes, liver, nuts, peas, poultry, and rice bran.
Who might benefit from extra thiamine?
Several groups of people are at risk of a vitamin B1 deficiency. They include:
• • • • • • • • • • • those with a moderate to high alcohol consumption, the elderly, those who pass large volumes of urine, such as diabetics, those on diuretic medication (water tablets) or digoxin (a drug used in heart failure), those recovering form heart failure, those who consume a lot of refined carbohydrates or junk food, psychiatric patients, particularly those suffering from depression and anxiety, women on the contraceptive pill or estrogen replacement therapy, those with liver or thyroid disease, people suffering from or recovering from infections, and those suffering from recurrent vomiting, such as in pregnancy, those with stomach disease and those with cancer.
How much do we need?
Generally a daily dosage of 50 to 100 mg is adequate. For those suffering from age related mental decline or Alzheimer's disease, the therapeutic dose is 3-8 grams daily (with the whole B complex being taken at some other point during the day). Vitamin B1 toxicity is very rare and it is one of the safest of the vitamins. However, excessive vitamin B1 can deplete other B vitamins and disrupt insulin and thyroid production.
Vitamin B2 - Riboflavin
Vitamin B2 was discovered in the 1930s when it was isolated from yeast extract.
The functions of vitamin B2 (riboflavin)
Vitamin B2 is needed for: • • • • • • energy production and aids in growth; reproduction; antibody production; the production of red blood cells; healthy eyes, hair and skin; aiding in the metabolism of carbohydrates, fats, and proteins;
its important role in the prevention and treatment of cataracts; and its role in regenerating glutathione, a powerful antioxidant that is one of the main protectors of the body's cells against free-radical damage.
The symptoms and signs of vitamin B2 deficiency
The symptoms of riboflavin deficiency include: • • • • cracking of the lips and corners of the mouth; an inflamed tongue; loss of visual perception and sensitivity to light, cataracts; and burning and/or itching of the eyes, lips, mouth, and tongue.
Other possible symptoms include: dizziness, hair loss, insomnia, poor digestion, and slowed mental response. It has uses in the treatment of some anemias, cataracts, poor skin and acne, vision problems (particularly eye fatigue) and carpel tunnel syndrome (repetitive strain injury).
Food sources of vitamin B2
The foods providing the highest levels of B2 are: brewer's or nutritional yeast, almonds, wheat germ, wild rice, egg yolks, legumes, liver, fish, and poultry.
Those who might benefit from riboflavin
Several groups of people might benefit from vitamin B2 supplementation. They include: • • • • • children during growth spurts (particularly during adolescence), pregnant and breast feeding women, those who consume moderate to large amounts of alcohol, the elderly, and women on the contraceptive pill or estrogen replacement therapy.
How much do you need?
Deficiencies of vitamin B2 can easily be corrected by taking 10-20 mg of vitamin B2 daily. The best supplements are those that contain all of the B group vitamins. You may notice a yellow coloration of the urine when you take supplements of vitamin B2. This is completely normal.
Vitamin B3 - Niacin
There are several forms of vitamin B3. Nicotinic acid (which is also known as niacin) is very closely related to the other compound nicotinamide or niacinamide. They all have vitamin B3 activity but nicotinic acid has rather specific effects on cholesterol metabolism.
Although vitamin B3 was discovered in 1911 its full role as a vitamin was not appreciated until 1937. Classical deficiencies of vitamin B3 produces pellagra (a condition characterized by dermatitis, diarrhea and dementia).
The functions of vitamin B3 (niacin)
Vitamin B3 is important for:
• • • • • • • the proper functioning of the nervous system and therefore the brain; the health of the skin; improving circulation; the metabolism of carbohydrates, fats and proteins; making sex hormones, and cortisol, thyroxine and insulin; the production of hydrochloric acid; and the normal secretion of bile and digestive fluids.
Vitamin B3 is available in two forms, niacin and niacinamide. The body's need for vitamin B3 is satisfied by either form, but in doses larger than those obtained from food, they have very different effects in the body. Niacin lowers LDL cholesterol and triglycerides, increases beneficial HDL cholesterol, increases circulation, improves brain function by improving the oxygen carrying ability of the red blood cells, regulates blood flow in memory tissue, and has the ability to mobilize fat from cells into the blood. Niacin also strengthens GABA, which is a calming neurotransmitter. The niacin form of B3 can cause flushing of the skin. Niacinamide does not cause flushing, will not lower cholesterol or improve circulation, but has other benefits. It has been used since the 1940's to reduce insulin requirements of diabetics and has been found to be very effective in the treatment of osteoarthritis.
The symptoms and signs of a vitamin B 3 deficiency
A severe deficiency of vitamin B3 and the amino acid tryptophan will result in pellagra, which manifests itself in marked dermatitis, dementia, and diarrhea. A moderate deficiency can cause these symptoms to a lesser degree including:
• • • • • • • • insomnia, tired all the time syndrome (T.A.T.), poor appetite, digestive problems, muscle weakness, irritability, skin problems, mouth sores, and
psychiatric disturbances (vitamin B3 deficiency has been linked to schizophrenia and depression).
Vitamin B3 is used in the following conditions:
• • • • • • • • • • menstrual pain and irregularities, skin problems, migraine headaches, circulatory problems and high blood pressure, vertigo in Meniere's syndrome, tinnitus (ringing or booming sensation in one or both ears) mouth ulcers, high cholesterol, some types of diabetes, and wheezing in asthmatics.
Food sources of vitamin B3
Niacin is found in: brewer's or nutritional yeast, liver, broccoli, carrots, cheese, eggs, fish, raw milk, peanuts, potatoes, tomatoes, dandelion greens, and wheat germ.
How much do you need?
It is best to take vitamin B3 as part of vitamin B complex and increase your intake if you are pregnant, breast feeding, in your child bearing years or on the contraceptive pill. 50-100 mg is usually adequate although higher doses may be recommended for particular conditions.
Contraindications - When NOT to take extra B3
Those suffering from diabetes, glaucoma, gout, liver disease, or peptic ulcers should use niacin supplements cautiously. Consuming over 500 mg per day for an extended length of time may result in liver damage.
• • Alcohol inhibits the metabolism of niacin and sleeping pills, estrogen and food processing will destroy the vitamin. High doses of nicotinic acid and nicotinamide can alter liver function tests, changes which quickly reverse when treatment is stopped or the dosage reduced. Some studies indicate that doses higher than 500 mg may cause some liver damage.
Vitamin B5 - Pantothenic Acid
Vitamin B5 is another member of the B complex family of vitamins. It is one of the safest of all vitamins and like riboflavin is helpful in times of stress and indeed is called the 'anti-stress' vitamin. It is essential for the conversion of carbohydrates in our diet to energy - even a slight deficiency can lead to fatigue.
The functions of vitamin B5 (pantothenic acid)
Every cell in the body, including brain cells, requires vitamin B5. It plays and important part in: • • • • • • • • • • synthesizing the adrenal hormones (important for those under stress), boosting the health of the nervous system, building cells and maintaining normal growth and development, forming antibodies to fight infections, enhancing the utilization of other vitamins, and promoting the conversion of choline to acetylcholine, brain neurotransmission, the normal functioning of the gastrointestinal tract, carbohydrate conversion and glucose metabolism, optimal energy levels, and wound healing.
The symptoms and signs of vitamin B5 deficiency
The first signs of vitamin B5 deficiency include: • • • • • • • • fatigue and listlessness, loss of appetite, poor coordination, weakness, hypoglycemia, blood and skin disorders, duodenal ulcers, and in severe deficiency, the "burning foot syndrome" with numbness and shooting pains.
Vitamin B5 has been used in the following conditions:
• • • • • • • • •
allergic reactions, stress and trauma, post operative shock and convalescence, tired all the time syndrome (T.A.T.), wounds that are difficult to heal, rheumatic arthritis, some anemias, some immune problems, and in lowering blood cholesterol and triglyceride levels.
Food processing destroys vitamin B5 so avoid canned food if you require this vitamin.
Food sources of vitamin B5
Most fresh vegetables are good sources for B5, as are brewer's and nutritional yeast, liver, eggs, avocados, broccoli, whole grains, bran, peanuts, cashews, legumes, and soybeans.
How much do you need?
Up to 500 mg daily can be used for immune problems and arthritis (taken with an equal amount of vitamin C). Vitamin B5 is normally found in B complex vitamins in amount between 10 and 100 mg. It is recommended that you get about 300 mg per day in food and supplements.
Vitamin B6 - Pyridoxine
Vitamin B6 (pyridoxine) deficiency is the most common in those of us who eat diets that are high in 'junk' or 'convenience' food. Food processing destroys up to 90 percent of vitamin B6. Many menstrual problems, including premenstrual syndrome (PMS), are linked to deficiencies of this vitamin.
The functions of vitamin B6
Pyridoxine is involved in a myriad of bodily functions (more than almost any other single nutrient). It is needed for: • • • the production of the neurotransmitters norepinephrine, serotonin, and dopamine (which are all necessary for optimal brain function), endocrine function in the brain, the growth of red blood cells,
• • • • • • • • • •
the health of skin and mucous membranes, effective immune function, the proper functioning of more than 60 different enzymes. production of hydrochloric acid, absorption of vitamin B12, the production of red blood cells and antibodies, metabolizing and transporting selenium, the absorption of zinc, alleviating nausea, and its activity as a natural diuretic.
The symptoms and signs of vitamin B6 deficiency
These include: • • • • • • • • • • • • • depression, infant convulsion, insomnia, kidney stones, premenstrual syndrome (PMS), rashes and dry skin, nervousness, glucose intolerance, anemia, impaired nerve function, cracked lips and tongue, headaches, and hair loss.
Vitamin B6 is useful for the following: • • night muscle spasms, leg cramps,
• • • • • • • • • • • • • • •
hand numbness, morning sickness, skin disorders, nervous system disorders, premenstrual syndrome (PMS), carpel tunnel syndrome (repetitive strain injury), asthma, kidney stones, osteoporosis, anemia, fluid retention, childhood autism, heart disease including arteriosclerosis, MSG sensitivity (those who are sensitive to MSG are often deficient in vitamin B6), and in diabetes for the prevention of diabetic complications.
Food sources of vitamin B6
The best food sources of vitamin B6 include: brewers or nutritional yeast, sunflower seeds, wheat germ, walnuts, carrots, legumes, soybeans, chicken, eggs, fish, organ meats, spinach, blackstrap molasses, and whole grains.
How much do you need?
Take as part of a vitamin B complex with equal amounts of B1 and B2. Doses of up to 100 to 200 mg per day are safe. It is not recommended that you take in excess of 500 mg per day.
30 - 40% of the population may have problems converting vitamin B6 into P5P (pyridoxyl-5phosphate), its main active form in the body. Those who are afflicted with illnesses may be unable to activate vitamin B6. For these people the activated form of vitamin B6 (P5P) should be taken. Diets high in protein will increase the body's requirements for vitamin B6, as does the consumption of alcohol and oral contraceptives. Arthritis sufferers taking penicillamine will require vitamin B6 supplements. Vitamin B6 is destroyed by canning, roasting, heat processing, water, alcohol, and estrogen. Vitamin B6 should not be taken by anyone undergoing Levodopa treatment for Parkinson's disease.
Vitamin B12 - Cobalamin
Cobalamin is a member of the B complex vitamins. It occurs naturally in animal products including milk and cheese. Vitamin B12 needs calcium to be properly assimilated. Vitamin B12 is known as the 'feel good' vitamin as it ensures the healthy functioning of the nervous system.
The functions of vitamin B12
Vitamin B12 is necessary for: • • • • • • • • • stimulating RNA synthesis in nerve cells, strengthening neurotransmitters, and increasing concentration and memory, myelin formation (the covering around the nerve cells), protecting arteries in the brain by metabolizing homocysteine, nervous system health, growth and development, the production of red blood cells, healthy digestive function, and detoxifying cyanide from foods and tobacco smoke.
The absorption of vitamin B12 is dependent on HCL (hydrochloric acid) in the stomach and the bonding to a substance called intrinsic factor within the small intestine. Intrinsic factor is secreted by cells of the stomach. These cells are also responsible for the secretion of HCL. The insufficiency or lack of intrinsic factor has been found more commonly among those of Scandinavian, English, and Irish descent.
The symptoms and signs of a vitamin B12 deficiency
B12 is often deficient in vegans (strict vegetarians) because the predominant source of B12 is animal products. It is also prevalent among the elderly population. Deficiencies have been associated with some forms of dementia. The symptoms associated with a B12 deficiency are: • • • • • fatigue, headaches, shortness of breath, sore, beefy red, swollen tongue, digestive disorders, heart and nervous system disturbances such as:
○ numbness and tingling of the arms or legs, ○ depression, ○ mental confusion, and ○ memory deficits. B12 deficiency can mimic Alzheimer's disease.
Food Sources of vitamin B12
Vitamin B12 is found in: brewer's and nutritional yeast, liver, clams, eggs, meats, fish, and dairy products. Some vitamin B12 is available from sea vegetables, such as, dulse, kelp, kombu, and nori.
Therapeutic levels of vitamin B12 are used in diseases and conditions such as AIDS, Alzheimer's disease, senility, compromised cognitive function, asthma, sulfite sensitivity, depression, diabetic neuropathy, multiple sclerosis, tinnitus, and low sperm count.
How much do you need?
For vegetarians, 100 mcg of B12 daily is recommended. Methylcobalamin, the active form of vitamin B12, in sublingual tablets is the preferred form of synthetic vitamin B12. The amounts recommended in deficiency states are 2,000 micrograms daily for 1 month, followed by 1,000 micrograms daily for 3 to 6 months or until the methylmelonic acid levels in the urine are normal. Vitamin B12 needs to be taken in conjunction with vitamins A, C and E and other members of the vitamin B complex.
Those with impaired digestive processes or over or under active thyroid may have problems with B12 absorption. Because of this, or if there is a serious B12 deficiency, a separate B12 supplement may be taken in addition to the B complex until the digestive processes and/or thyroid are normalized or the deficiency dealt with. This should be taken at a different time during the day than the B complex. For these people, it may be advisable to take the active form of B12 (methylcobalamin) in a sublingual form. Vitamin B12 injections are another possibility, though research has shown that this is no more effective than oral administration of B12. A non-diet related vitamin B12 deficiency is indicative of intestinal overgrowth of toxic bacteria (dysbiosis) and a disturbance in the balance of beneficial bacteria in the intestinal tract. This will result in leaky gut if left untreated. Leaky gut allows large protein particles, undigested food particles, and toxins to move through the intestinal walls and find their way into the blood stream where they cause all kinds of problems. This is the starting point of many diseases. Dysbiosis requires supplementation with the vitamin B complex, vitamin B12, digestive enzymes, and probiotics, such as acidophilus and bifido bacterium. Zinc and glutamine are helpful in healing leaky gut. It is beneficial to use all of these supplements together to address the entire digestive tract. It is also important to keep the diet free of sugar and processed foods. Sunlight, water, alcohol, and sleeping pills act against vitamin B12.
A time release tablet is recommended for vitamin B12 because it is not well absorbed through the stomach and these time release tablets offers the opportunity for it to be absorbed in the small intestines. Chronic diarrhea, intestinal parasites and other digestive disorders inhibit the absorption of vitamin B12 and deficiency is particularly common in the elderly.
Folate - Folic Acid or Vitamin BC
Folic acid is crucial in the development of the fetus. Folate (folic acid) is a nutrient that is often deficient because it is so fragile. Though folic acid is present in many foods, its content in food is greatly diminished by cooking and is progressively lowered the longer food is stored after picking. Because of this folic acid deficiencies are extremely common. Vitamin B12 must always accompany folic acid supplementation to prevent the folic acid supplement from masking a vitamin B12 deficiency. Folic acid will correct anemia associated with the vitamin B12 deficiency but will not remedy the problems that the B12 deficiency causes in the nervous system and brain. Folic acid is extremely important for proper fetal development and prevention of heart disease.
The functions of folic acid
Folic acid works synergistically with vitamin B12 in many of the body's processes. It is critical for:
• • • proper cell division and healthy nerve tissue, the utilization of sugars and amino acids, and the formation of red blood cells.
The symptoms and signs of folic acid deficiency
A folic acid deficiency effects all cells in the body, but the rapidly dividing cells such as red blood cells and cells of the GI tract are most notably affected. Some of the symptoms caused by a folic acid deficiency are:
• • • • • • • anemia, depression, insomnia, irritability, forgetfulness, loss of appetite, and fatigue.
Folic acid is used in:
• • • • • • • • • •
some anemias, cervical dysplasia, immune problems, food poisoning, intestinal worms (which it protects against), depression, skin problems, convalescence, mouth ulcers, and pain (it acts as an analgesic).
Folic acid is available as folinic acid (5-methyl-tetra-hydrofolate). Supplementing with this form is more effective in raising levels of folic acid in the body because it relieves the body of the job of converting the folic acid into folinic acid.
Food Sources of folic acid
All dark leafy greens (the foliage that folic acid is named after) are good food sources of folic acid. These include: kale, spinach, beet greens, and chard. Other sources are brewer's and nutritional yeast, rice germ, wheat germ, blackeye peas, beans and lentils, asparagus, liver, soybeans, wheat bran, and walnuts.
How much to take
400 - 800 mcg daily with meals.
High doses of folic acid (5-10mg) may cause gas, poor appetite, and stomach upset. Those with epilepsy should avoid folic acid in high doses, because it may result in increased occurrence of seizures. If taking pancreatic enzymes, which may reduce folic acid absorption, take the two supplements four to six hours apart.
Biotin - Coenzyme R or Vitamin H
Biotin, choline and inosital are vitamins or vitamin like substances and are considered to be a part of the vitamin B complex. Biotin is often used in the treatment of hair loss and premature greying.
The functions of biotin
Biotin aids in:
• • • • • •
the utilization of other B vitamins, the metabolism of carbohydrates, fats, and proteins, fatty acid production, cell growth, the promotion of healthy skin and hair, sex glands, nerve tissue, and bone marrow, and relieving muscle pain.
The symptoms and signs of a biotin deficiency
Biotin deficiency can cause a wide range of symptoms including: • • • • • • • • anemia, depression, hair loss, hyperglycemia, inflammation of the skin and mucous membranes, insomnia, loss of appetite, muscular pain, and nausea.
Food Sources of biotin
Food sources for biotin are: brewer's and nutritional yeast, soybeans, whole grains, egg yolks, milk, meat, poultry, and saltwater fish.
Antibiotics, sulfa drugs, saccharin and estrogen work to destroy biotin as do rancid or oxidized fats and oils. A protein called avidin that is present in egg whites, binds with biotin in the digestive tract and can deplete the body of this important nutrient.
Biotin can be used for the treatment of: • • • • some hair loss, to prevent the hair from turning prematurely grey; muscle pain, eczema and dermatitis, and
some aspects of diabetes.
How much do you need?
Biotin is found in most vitamin B complex supplements, and multivitamins. The dose should be between 25 and 300 mcg per day. Biotin works together with B2, B3, B6 and vitamin A and they should be taken together. There are no known toxic effects of biotin. Long term use of antibiotics will increase the requirement of biotin since the body's natural bacteria, necessary for the synthesis of biotin, are destroyed by antibiotics.
Choline is a B vitamin that is known to be essential in animals and humans. Choline is an important biochemical compound, but not, strictly speaking, a vitamin.
The functions of chlorine
Choline is: • • • • • • a precursor of the neurotransmitter acetylcholine and is essential for optimal nervous system and memory function, helpful in controlling harmful levels of homocysteine, protects and nourishes other chemicals that support memory, necessary for myelin formation, along with vitamin B12, important in gall bladder regulation, liver function, and lecithin formation, and helpful in aiding hormone production and in fat and cholesterol metabolism.
The symptoms and signs of choline deficiency
Indicationss of choline deficiencies are: • • • • • • • impaired brain function and memory, cardiac symptoms, gastric ulcers, high blood pressure, inability to digest fats, kidney and liver impairment, and stunted growth.
Food sources of choline
Choline is a major ingredient in lecithin and lecithin makes up about 30% of the dry weight of the brain. Lecithin provides other important nutrients including phospholipids, fats, and glycolipids. Choline is also found in: egg yolks, green leafy vegetables, liver, soybeans, yeast, and wheat germ. The best supplemental source is phosphatidyl choline.
Choline is used in the following conditions: • • • • • high cholesterol, liver problems, depression and anxiety, memory problems (particularly in the elderly), and Alzheimer's disease.
How much do you need?
500 - 1,000 mg per day for those aged 65 and under. Those over 65 may need from 1 - 5 grams per day.
Choline should always be taken with other B group vitamins. Take choline with calcium, it will be required to balance phosphorous and calcium in the body, since chlorine increases the phosphorous in the body.
Inositol is a member of the vitamin B group.
The functions of insoitol
Inositol is essential for: • • • hair growth, helping to prevent hardening of the arteries, and the formation of lecithin and the metabolism of fat and cholesterol.
Inositol has a calming effect and has been shown to be very effective in cases where depression is an issue.
The symptoms and signs of an inositol deficiency
A deficiency in inositol can result in: • arteriosclerosis,
• • • • • •
constipation, hair loss, high blood cholesterol, irritability, mood swings, and skin eruptions.
Food sources of inositol
Inositol can be found in: whole grains, brewer's and nutritional yeast, lecithin, citrus fruits, nuts, seeds, legumes, unrefined molasses, meats, and dairy.
Inositol is used in: • • • • • high cholesterol levels, hair problems, eczema, depression and anxiety, and diabetic neuropathy.
How much do we need?
10-20 mg daily, in divided doses. As you will have seen if you have looked over each of the B group members, the B complex vitamins are of extreme importance to our health and well being work together as a team. Deficiencies can imbalance the whole B complex and deficiencies such as B-12 can cause severe and permanent damage to the body. It is important that we take steps to supply this important complex of vitamins to our bodies, first through our diets and secondly through proper supplementation.
Vitamin C - Ascorbic Acid
Ascorbic acid is often consumed as some named form of ascorbate, for example, calcium ascorbate. Vitamin C is one of the most important vitamins for the immune system and for the health of every tissue in the body. Vitamin C is water-soluble so our bodies are unable to store it. Therefore we must ensure that we consume adequate supplies every day.
The functions of vitamin C
Vitamin C is necessary for normal growth and development. It is required for:
• • • • • • the growth and repair of tissues in all parts of your body; the absorption of iron; stimulating the activity of the immune system; the formation of collagen, an important protein used to make skin, scar tissue, tendons, ligaments, and blood vessels; healing wounds, and for the repair and maintenance of cartilage, bones, and teeth; and vitamin C is an antioxidant.
Antioxidants are nutrients that block some of the damage caused by free radicals, which are byproducts that result when your body transforms food into energy. The build up of these byproducts over time is largely responsible for the aging process and can contribute to the development of various health conditions such as cancer, heart disease, and a host of inflammatory conditions like arthritis. Antioxidants also help reduce the damage to the body caused by toxic chemicals and pollutants such as cigarette smoke.
The symptoms and signs of vitamin C deficiency
Vitamin C deficiency can lead to:
• • • • • • • • • • • • • dry and splitting hair; gingivitis (inflammation of the gums) and bleeding gums; rough, dry, scaly skin; decreased wound-healing rate and easy bruising; nosebleeds; weakened enamel of the teeth; swollen and painful joints; anemia; decreased ability to ward off infection; possibly, weight gain because of slowed metabolic rate and energy expenditure; 'pinpoint' hemorrhages under the skin; edema (water retention), and bronchial infection and colds.
A severe form of vitamin C deficiency is known as scurvy, which mainly affects older, malnourished adults. The body does not manufacture vitamin C on its own, nor does it store it. So it is very important to include plenty of vitamin C-containing foods in your daily diet.
Food sources of vitamin C
All fruits and vegetables contain some amount of vitamin C. Foods that tend to be the highest sources of vitamin C include: green peppers, citrus fruits and juices, strawberries, tomatoes, broccoli, turnip greens and other leafy greens, sweet and white potatoes, and cantaloupe. Other excellent sources include: papaya, mango, watermelon, brussels sprouts, cauliflower, cabbage, winter squash, red peppers, raspberries, blueberries, cranberries, and pineapples.
How much do you need?
The recommended daily intakes of dietary vitamin C (according to the U.S. RDA) are listed below.
Pediatric (for children) Vitamin C Pediatric RDA Stage and Age Vitamin C (mg) Neonates 1 to 6 months 30 mg Infants 6 to 12 months 35 mg Children 1 to 3 years 40 mg Children 4 to 6 years 45 mg Children 7 to 10 years 45 mg Children 11 to 14 years 50 mg Adolescent girls 15 to 18 years 65 mg Adolescent boys 15 to 18 years 75 mg Adults Vitamin C Adults RDA Males and Females Men over 18 years Women over 18 years Breastfeeding women: first 6 months Breastfeeding women: second 6 months Vitamin C (mg) 90 mg 75 mg 95 mg 90 mg
Being water soluble, vitamin C is regularly excreted by the body. Therefore, toxicity is very rare, although large doses can cause skin irritation, stomach upset and diarrhea. Vitamin C will be more effective if taken with bioflavonoids, calcium and magnesium. To enhance the antioxidant properties, it will be best to take it with the other antioxidants, as there is strong evidence of synergy between all of them. Mega doses of vitamin C should be avoided in individuals with a history of renal stones due to oxalate formation or hemochromatosis or other diseases related to excessive iron accumulation. Extremely high dosage of vitamin C may predispose premature infants to hemolytic anemia due to the fragility of their red blood cells.
The need for vitamin C will dramatically increase in times when the body is subjected to trauma, infections, and strenuous exercise, elevated environmental temperatures or if the person is a smoker. Smokers should supplement with another 100 mg per day. Carbon monoxide destroys vitamin C so anyone living in polluted areas will need extra vitamin C. Be careful of taking aspirin and vitamin C supplements together. Vitamin C may cause stomach irritation. Vitamin C is destroyed by air, heat, water as well as prolonged storage, overcooking and processing. Antacids, alcohol, antidepressants, birth control pills and steroids will also deplete this vitamin.
Vitamin D - Calciferol
Vitamin D is produced in the body in the presence of sunlight. Because it is fat soluble it is stored in the body. Calciferol is encountered in the primary form known as cholecalciferol (D3) and also as ergocalciferol (D2).
Sun exposure is perhaps the most important source of vitamin D because exposure to sunlight provides most humans with their vitamin D requirement. Ultraviolet (UV) rays from the sun trigger vitamin D synthesis in skin. The seasons, geographic latitude, time of day, cloud cover, smog, and sunscreen affect UV ray exposure and vitamin D synthesis. For example, sunlight exposure from November through February in Boston is insufficient to produce significant vitamin D synthesis in the skin. Complete cloud cover halves the energy of UV rays, and shade reduces it by 60%. Industrial pollution, which increases shade, also decreases sun exposure and may contribute to the development of rickets in children with insufficient dietary intake of vitamin D. It is important for individuals with limited sun exposure to include good sources of vitamin D in their diet.
The functions of vitamin D
Vitamin D is involved in: • • • • • mineral metabolism and bone growth; the intestinal absorption and metabolism of calcium; the absorption of phosphate, zinc, iron, magnesium and other minerals; the absorption of vitamin A; and proper kidney function.
In the absence of vitamin D, dietary calcium is not absorbed efficiently. Vitamin D stimulates a number of proteins involved in transporting calcium from the lumen of the intestine, across the
epithelial cells and into blood. The best-studied of these calcium transporters is calbindin, an intracellular protein that ferries calcium across the intestinal epithelial cell. Vitamin D receptors are present in most if not all cells in the body and vitamin D has a potent effects on the growth and differentiation of many types of cells. This suggests that vitamin D has physiologic effects much broader than a role in mineral homeostasis and bone formation. There is research being conducted on the functions of vitamin D and more information about its functions will be available in the near future.
The symptoms and signs of vitamin D deficiency
The classical manifestation of vitamin D deficiency is rickets, which is seen in children and results in bony deformities including bowed long bones. Deficiency in adults leads to the disease osteomalacia. Both rickets and osteomalacia reflect impaired mineralization of newly synthesized bone matrix, and usually result from a combination of inadequate exposure to sunlight and decreased dietary intake of vitamin D. Vitamin D deficiencies are also associated with tooth decay and osteoporosis. Vitamin D deficiency or insufficiency occurs in several other situations. These include: • • • Genetic defects in the vitamin D receptor: a number of different mutations have been identified in humans that lead to hereditary vitamin D resistance. Severe liver or kidney disease: this can interfere with generation of the biologicallyactive form of vitamin D. Insufficient exposure to sunlight: ○ Elderly people who stay inside and have poor diets often have at least subclinical deficiency. ○ Vitamin D deficiency is common in some of the sunniest countries in the world, where for example, the culture requires women to be heavily veiled when outside in public. ○ Anyone who works at night or whose clothing prevents exposure to sunlight will require extra vitamin D. ○ People who live in polluted environments will also need extra vitamin D.
Food sources of vitamin D
Vitamin D is contained in fish (such as mackerel and herring), egg yolks and fish liver oils and some fortified foods. The absorption of vitamin D supplements will be encouraged by taking the supplements at the same time as eating a meal which contains some fat.
How much supplement to take
Most capsules contain approximately 400 IU (in the form of natural fish liver oil) and doses between 400 and 1,000 IU can be taken daily. Dosages above 1,000 IU are not recommended.
The elderly are less able to efficiently synthesize vitamin D and may require vitamin D supplements. Vegans, especially those who live in cold climates are advised to take vitamin D supplements. Vitamin D is fat soluble and large or repeated doses can build up to toxic levels in the body. The symptoms of toxicity include: • • • • • • • • • nausea and vomiting, calcium deposits, unusual thirst, sore eyes, itching skin, kidney damage, damage to the arteries, irregular heart beat, and high blood pressure.
Vitamin E - Alpha Tocopherol
Vitamin E is an antioxidant vitamin with a wide range of therapeutic uses. Although this vitamin is fat soluble it is stored less effectively in the body than most and is very easily destroyed by processing. For example 90% is lost when wheat is refined into white flour. Smokers and women who take the contraceptive pill have additional vitamin E requirements.
The functions of vitamin E
Vitamin E is necessary for:
• • • • • • • slowing the aging process, its antioxidant effects, protecting the lungs against pollution, helping in the development and maintenance of nerves and muscles, helping to prevent miscarriages, improving the immune activity of the body, its natural diuretic effect,
• • •
healing skin and preventing scarring both internally and externally (this is why a lot of skin creams and ointments contain vitamin E), improving fertility, and reducing the oxygen requirements of the body.
The symptoms and signs of a vitamin E deficiency
Vitamin E deficiencies may cause:
• • • • • • • • • • • disorders of reproduction, slowed growth in children, abnormalities of muscle, liver, bone marrow, and brain function, fragile red blood cells, muscle degeneration, reproductive problems and infertility, reduced sex drive, some anemias, age spots, cataracts, and some neurological damage.
Special benefits of vitamin E
Vitamin E may help in the following ways. It may prevent or delay heart disease and related complications. Vitamin E's ability to protect against cardiovascular disease has been intensively studied and was initially thought to be very promising. The vitamin appears to prevent the oxidation of LDL ("bad") cholesterol, the first step in the development of atherosclerosis, a build up of plaque in the arteries that inhibits normal circulation. Vitamin E is also believed to help prevent the formation of blood clots and to minimize the inflammatory process involved in heart disease development. Still a matter of debate, however, is whether an antioxidant such as vitamin E (including both tocopherols and tocotrienols) can prevent strokes, which aren't directly related to atherosclerosis. It has a role in protecting against prostate and other cancers. As an antioxidant, vitamin E helps to safeguard cell membranes from the damaging effects of free radicals that can play a role in the development of cancer. The vitamin may also help fight cancer by boosting the immune system and reducing the risk of colon cancer, particularly in women under age 65. Additionally, it:
• • can delay the progress of Parkinson's disease; encourages the insulin action in diabetes;
• • • • •
helps in the control of diabetic seizures; prevents or delays cataracts and macular degeneration; slows the progression of Alzheimer's disease and dementia; retards the aging process and boosts immune function; and promote healing of burns, eczema, and other skin problems.
When applied to the skin, vitamin E-containing creams or oils are believed to promote healing, protecting cells from free-radical damage and reducing itchiness. Many people use such products to ensure optimal skin health.
Food sources of vitamin E
Foods that contain vitamin E include: cereal brans (barley, oats, rice), soybeans, leafy green vegetables, almonds, butter, peanuts, sunflower oil, seeds and palm oil.
How much do you need?
The current Recommended Intake (or RDA) for vitamin E is 15 mg, equal to about 23 IU daily. In addition to the vitamin E dosages for tocopherols indicated below, take 100 mg tocotrienols daily.
• • • To support general health: 200-400 IU daily. To support heart disease prevention: up to 800 IU daily. To support cancer prevention: up to 800 IU daily.
Vitamin E appears to be safe when consumed in amounts up to 1,000 IU a day, although diarrhea and headaches havebeen reported in some people. Doses of over 800 IU a day of vitamin E may interfere with the body's ability to clot blood, posing a risk to people taking blood thinners (anticoagulants). In addition, high doses of vitamin E may inhibit the absorption of vitamin A. Chlorinated drinking water increases vitamin E requirements. Women of menopausal age as well as pregnant, breast feeding and women taking the contraceptive pill will also require increases in vitamin E. Products with 25mcg of selenium for each 200 IU of vitamin E will encourage the efficiency of the vitamin E. Vitamin E is particularly effective when taken with vitamin C, which increases its absorption by the body. For topical use, commercial creams containing vitamin E are easy to find.
Guidelines For Use • Try to take vitamin E at the same time each day.
• • •
To promote absorption and lower the risk of stomach irritation, take this fatsoluble vitamin with food that contains some fat. Once vitamin E captures a free radicals, it becomes a weak free radical itself. For this reason, make sure to get plenty of vitamin C as well. Tocotrienols can't perform many of the important health functions of tocopherols, so don't substitute tocotrienol supplements for your regular vitamin E capsules. The two can safely be combined however. Inorganic iron known as ferrous sulphate destroys vitamin E and you should not take it within eight hours of taking vitamin E.
Vitamin E's mild blood-thinning effect could cause problems if it is routinely taken with anticoagulant (blood-thinning) drugs such as warfarin or blood-thinning dietary supplements such as ginkgo. Aspirin could alsopresent problems in this regard. Consult your doctor before taking such a combination.
Because of vitamin E's effect on blood clotting, don't take supplements for two days before or after any type of surgery (including dental surgery). The minimum amount of vitamin E it takes to alter blood clotting is about 30 IU a day. A number of chemotherapy and radiation treatments are designed to actually create free radicals for the purpose of killing cancer cells. If you are undergoing cancer treatment, don't take antioxidants such as vitamin E supplements without consulting your oncologist first. Otherwise, you may be working counter to what the cancer treatment is designed to do. Consult your doctor before taking vitamin E if you have high blood pressure that is poorly controlled; the increased risk for bleeding with vitamin E could possibly lead to a greater risk for the complications of high blood pressure,such as hemorrhagic stroke (bleeding in the brain).
Vitamin K - Phylloquinone or Menaquinone, Menadione
Vitamin K is a fat soluble vitamin which is rarely deficient. Healthy bowel bacteria ensure adequate amounts of vitamin K. Natural yoghurt which provides 'healthy' bowel bacteria is a good source of vitamin K. The main function of Vitamin K is in the regulation of blood clotting. Chronic nose bleeds may respond to the therapeutic use of vitamin K.
The functions of vitamin K
Vitamin K is essential for: • • the formation of prothrombin (a blood clotting biochemical), the calcification and mineralization of bones, and
assisting in converting glucose to glycogen.
There are some indications that vitamin K may decrease the incidence or severity of osteoporosis by slowing bone loss.
The symptoms and signs of vitamin K deficiency
A deficiency of vitamin K in newborn babies results in hemorrhagic disease. Deficiency can also result in postoperative bleeding and hematuria. Muscle hematomas and intra-cranial hemorrhages have also been reported. A shortage of this vitamin may manifest itself in: • • • nosebleeds, internal bleeding, and osteoporosis.
Chronic diarrhea is both a symptom of the deficiency and a cause of the deficiency.
Food sources of vitamin K
Vitamin K is found in leafy vegetables, broccoli and Brussels sprouts, cheese, egg yolks, kelp and liver. It is also found in asparagus, coffee, bacon and green tea.
How much is needed?
The dosage below is the Recommended Dietary Allowance (RDA), but be aware that this dosage is the minimum that you require per day, to ward off serious deficiency of this particular nutrient. In the therapeutic use of this nutrient, the dosage is usually increased considerably, but the toxicity level must be kept in mind. Males 80 micrograms per day and females 70 micrograms per day.
Toxicity and symptoms of high intake
Toxicity does not easily occur with normal dietary intake of this vitamin. It is not recommended that you take more than 500mcg of synthetic vitamin K (mendadione). High to toxic uptake of the synthetic form can cause flushing and sweating, jaundice and anemia. If you are taking an anti-coagulant medication (to prevent blood clotting) consult your medical practitioner before taking vitamin K supplement.
Dietary fat is necessary for the absorption of this vitamin, so any problems with fat digestion will discourage vitamin K absorption. Anything else that affects the activity of the bowels including long courses of antibiotics will prevent the absorption of vitamin K. This nutrient can be destroyed by freezing and radiation as well as air pollution. Absorption may be decreased when rancid fats are present, as well as excessive refined sugar, antibiotics, high dosages of vitamin E, or calcium and mineral oils.
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