It’s funny how things kind of flow together when you get on a subject that’s near and dear to your heart. I am probably one of the world’s biggest advocates for herbal supplementation and alternative therapies. There’s just something about natural healing that sparks a happy place in my brain. That thirst for knowledge keeps me digging and searching for any and all the information I can find to keep learning and sharing new and exciting developments in the alternative medicine world.
As we were discussing last week, the American diet frankly leaves a lot to be desired. Most of us just don’t eat enough of the right foods every day to maintain our bodies in the style preordained in the master plan. And what happens when we aren’t nice to our bodies?
Oh, I’m not pointing fingers. Nor am I pontificating or pretending to be the paragon of good health. Far from it. Truth be told, I love red meat entirely too much, love my beer even more and definitely don’t get enough exercise. What’s more, I can lay claim to at least two cigars every weekend. I cook big, well balanced meals on the weekend, but after Wednesday when the last of the leftovers have left the microwave, it’s catch what catch can until Saturday. And, *head bowed in shame* that often includes Big Mac’s (another of my guilty pleasures) and a large order of fries…but in my defense, I wash it down with a Diet Pepsi!
The sad part is that I’ll probably be accused of being an accessory after the fact because sharing those leftovers with me is the love of my life. When I hit McDonald‘s for a Big Mac on the way to work, she’s hitting some fast food place for her dinner, too (she hates to cook). Thankfully she, too, has been brought into the light and is swallowing her vitamins every day right beside me.
And I’m definitely not saying that you can eat whatever you want, drink whenever you want, get no exercise and then take a hand full of vitamins and supplements to cancel out the evils of all your excesses.
But wouldn’t it be great if you could?!
Meanwhile, back in the real world, it’s time to face a few realities. In sad summary, we have terrible eating habits, we’re getting older and most of us gave up the three minute mile a few years back. It only makes sense that we have to replenish and nourish ourselves and offer up our best defense against the offense we, and the aging processes, are inflicting on our bodies on a daily basis.
One of the first weapons in your arsenal should probably be a multivitamin.
But which one? The supermarket, drug store and vitamin shops are loaded with them, right?
For starters, those $300 a month “Super-Duper-Mega-Multivitamins” you see flashing across your TV screen on a daily basis aren’t really necessary, nor are they all they’re cracked up to be. I’ve built up a chart with vitamin and mineral descriptions and their “DRI’s,” (Dietary Reference Intake-the revised measurement for the long outdated vitamin and mineral RDA’s, (Recommended Daily Allowances) that were originally put into place in 1968 and had remained unchanged ever since. The DRI was introduced in 1997 in order to broaden the existing Recommended Dietary Allowances guideline to better reflect our changing lifestyles through newer science. The DRI values are not currently used in nutrition labeling. The older Reference Daily Intakes (RDI’s) are still used. Given that even the “fast food” diet includes some nutrients, most high quality daily multivitamins will meet these requirements.
Please keep in mind that these DRI’s are intended for healthy individuals. For those with medical conditions, these requirements may vary and should be discussed with a medical professional. Conditions such as anemia, Crohn’s Disease, intestinal absorption deficiencies, liver and kidney disorders, cancer and a myriad of other blood or digestive diseases bring some very specific supplementation issues to the table and should be maintained and monitored by a healthcare professional.
The most important thing to consider when choosing a multivitamin is the quality of the ingredients. Always look for a supplement manufactured by a company that meets or exceeds the GMP (Good Manufacturing Practices) requirements and who use only high quality, natural ingredients with no GMO’s (Genetically Modified Organisms). There are a lot of red flags concerning GMO’s. I personally steer clear of them. Buying from an established American GMP approved company definitely improves your chances of getting a supplement that was manufactured in a sterile environment with the correct amount/measurement of the vitamin or mineral you’re buying in it: and without dangerous, unregulated fillers or binders.
Some of the more reputable vitamin, mineral and herbal manufacturers that come to mind are Swanson’s, Nature Made, Puritan’s Pride and Nature’s Sunshine. I personally order through Swanson’s and have had nothing but good results, but that’s my experience. Do some research before deciding on a supplement and choose the one that best suits your needs: and make sure they’re manufactured entirely in the United States. Many vitamin/supplement companies claim to sell all American products, but get their ingredients from overseas.
If you are a Vegan, your need to supplement is ten-fold. The lack of meats and dairy in your diet and the nutrients they contain has to be replaced by supplementation. All of the good quality supplement manufacturers offer Vegan specific and Vegan compounded supplements made without animal byproducts and containing the vitamins and minerals lacking in your diet.
When you’re doing your research, make sure to read all the way to the bottom of the component list. Find out what the manufacturer is using for fillers and binders, what their capsules are made of, etc. These fillers and binders can effect the absorption rate and health benefits of the vitamin or mineral by as much as 65%. Many of the less reputable manufacturers use anything and everything for binders, or to add filler to their vitamins-much of which is not compatible with a healthy supplement. Magnesium stearate, for instance, is a widely used filler. Studies have shown that it suppresses immune function. Titanium dioxide is a whitening agent that is often used in some supplements and has been shown to be a potential carcinogen. Parabens are a group of widely used preservative and anti-microbial agents used in many supplements. There is concern that parabens can cause hormone disturbances and have been found in high concentrations in breast cancer tumors. MSG, (monosodium glutamate) is a very common flavoring agent in supplements and is widely used in processed foods. Many individuals have had adverse reactions to MSG, not the least if which is migraine headaches. It is a known neuro-toxic agent and should be strictly avoided when choosing supplements. These are but a few things to look out for and avoid. There are many other potential toxins/allergens used as fillers, binders and capsule material. I find it best to always look for all natural Vegan/Vegetarian compounds.
For those of us over fifty, some additional supplements to consider in a multivitamin might be Lutein (6mg a day) for eye health, calcium for the prevention of osteoporosis, Vitamin D because as we age, we lose a great deal of our ability to absorb vitamin D from the sun through our skin, the B vitamins, (B12 and B6 especially) for healthy red blood cells, and a high quality fish oil (usually a separate supplement and not often supplied in a multi in sufficient quantity) to help keep your arteries clean. Most manufacturers carry age-specific compounds tailored to the needs of those of us in our “prime.”
Below is a link to my list of the DRI for the most common vitamins and minerals your body requires on a daily basis with a short explanation of each further down the list. This list is by no means all inclusive. It is intended purely as a guideline.
Everyone’s personal needs differ, so no one vitamin supplement is perfect for everyone. However, starting with a high quality multivitamin is a good place to get your feet wet. I, myself, take an over-fifty multivitamin, 1000mg of vitamin C, 1200mg of fish oil for cardiovascular health, 400IU’s of vitamin D-3 because I eat very little dairy and work indoors, a herbal prostate combo that contains saw palmetto, pygeum and stinging nettle (nettle is also believed to lower blood pressure), and a flax seed capsule for roughage. While some may say that sounds excessive, my annual blood work would disagree. I am on no cholesterol lowering statins, I rarely get sick, and I have never had any prostate issues (thank God): a common infirmity in those of us fellas over fifty. I also occasionally self-administer a 1200mcg shot of B-12 because I work nights and, try as we may, the body just isn’t made to be up all night and sleep during the day. We’re not bats. On those mornings when I’m having a hard time falling asleep, I often take a Valerian capsule which usually eases me into a peaceful sleep. As you can see, I practice what I preach and keep a wide variety of herbal remedies on hand at all times.
As I’ve stated before, this blog is posted for information purposes only and is in no way, shape or form intended to diagnose any medical conditions or be construed as medical advice. I am not a medical doctor, nor do I claim to be. Always consult a health care professional before beginning any diet, supplement or exercise regimen.
To boil it all down: Unless you’re someone dedicated to eating a perfectly balanced diet every day, exercising regularly and sleeping eight or more hours a night, chances are you’re lacking in one nutrient or another. That, unfortunately, is life and the older we get, the more common these deficiencies become and the more severe the consequences.
If you live a Vegetarian or Vegan lifestyle, you will definitely need to look into supplementation in one form or another. If you’re pregnant, breastfeeding or have plans of becoming pregnant, discuss a vitamin regimen with your doctor. Pregnancy and breastfeeding bring with them their own special set of nutritional needs, warnings and contraindications. It is extremely important for you to discuss your personal nutritional needs with your healthcare provider as soon as possible.
Well, I guess I’ve spouted enough for one day. I hope this week’s blog has given you some food for thought.
As always, I welcome your comments, good or bad, and I can always be reached via email if you should have any comments or questions you don’t want posted on a public forum.
And, as always, I wish you peace, happiness, good health and a long and happy retirement.
See you next week,