TOPIC · HEALTH · VITAMINS · EVERYTHING YOU NEED TO KNOW
Every week I am posting about everything you need to know about hormones. This weeks topic is about vitamins.
Did you know
- Vitamin are essential micronutrients the body needs in small quantities for the proper functioning
- As always essential means it cannot be made in the body, either not at all or not in sufficient quantities, and therefore must be obtained through the diet
- Previously called ‘accessory factors’ relating to something else in foods other than proteins, fats and carbs
- Both animal and plant foods contain vitamins
- Sun ripened plant foods contain more vitamins than those harvested before time
- The foods containing the most vitamins per gram weight are organ meats. (yummy I had liver today)
- The body uses 13 – 14 different vitamins
- Some vitamins are known by their letters, such as A, B, C, D, etc
- Some vitamins are known by their names, such as Folic Acid/Folate, which by the way is a B vitamin / B9
- There are 4 fat soluble vitamins – A, D, E & K
- There are 9 – 10 water soluble vitamins – the B’s – 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 12 and vitamin C
- Vitamins often work together with minerals, eg. Vitamin C helps the body absorb iron, and Vitamin D helps with the absorption of calcium.
- Many vitamins (and minerals) work as co-factors for enzymes ie. they help activate and control biochemical processes essential for a healthy body
- The word vitamin comes from vital-amine, where vital means life and amine from amino acid as vitamins were initially thought to be amino acids
- People who eat a varied diet are unlikely to develop a severe vitamin deficiency, but may be consuming less than the recommended amounts
- A national food and supplement survey conducted in the US from 2003-2006 reported that over 90% of individuals who did not consume vitamin supplements were found to have inadequate levels of some of the essential vitamins, notably vitamins D and E
- Vitamin supplements are regulated as food not medication
Meet Sally and get to know all about vitamins
Meet the vitamins
Can you be vitamin deficient
Daily Dose of vitamins
Meet the vitamins
- Vitamin A – including retinol and provitamin A carotenoids
- Vitamin D – calciferols
- Vitamin E – tocopherols and tocotrienols
- Vitamin K – phylloquinone and menaquinones
- Vitamin B1 – thiamine
- Vitamin B2 – riboflavin
- Vitamin B3 – niacin
- Vitamin B4 – choline
- Vitamin B5 – pantothenic acid
- Vitamin B6 – pyridoxine
- Vitamin B7 – biotin
- Vitamin B8 – inositol
- Vitamin B9 – folic acid or folate
- Vitamin B12 – cobalamins
- Vitamin C – ascorbic acid
Can you be Vitamin Deficient?
The short answer yes and no, ie not deficient enough to suffer from the major deficiency diseases of the past, such as Scurvy, but maybe deficient enough to suffer with symptoms indicating less optimal levels, such poor immune function, etc
Does the body store vitamins?
- Yes but it varies from vitamin to vitamin
- The fat-soluble vitamins A, D, E & K are stored in significant amounts, mainly in the liver but also other fatty tissues
- The diet can be deficient in fat-soluble vitamins for many months before a deficiency condition develops
- Most of the water-soluble vitamins, such as vitamin C and the B’s, are not stored in the body many of which need to be replaced every day.
- If you consume more than you need, the excess will be excreted in your urine.
- Vitamin B12 is an exception as it is stored in the liver.
- Vitamin C is also an exception as it is reabsorbed in the kidneys and can stay in the body for weeks even months
- Vitamin B3 – niacin and niacinamide are not stored in significant amounts, so stores may only last a few days or a week.
- Deficiencies are classified as either primary or secondary.
- A primary deficiency occurs when an organism does not get enough of the vitamin in its food.
- A secondary deficiency may be due to an underlying disorder that prevents or limits the absorption or use of the vitamin, due to a “lifestyle factor”, such as smoking, excessive alcohol consumption, use of medications that interfere with the absorption or use of the vitamin, such as some antibiotics can decrease Vit D and Vit A.
Common Deficiency Diseases
These disease states are very rare the developed world:
- Vitamin B1 / Thiamine – Beriberi
- Vitamin B3 / Niacin – Pellagra
- Vitamin C / Ascorbic Acid – Scurvy
- Vitamin B9 / Folate – Neural tube defects
- Vitamin D – Rickets
Testing vitamin levels
If you suspect one or more of your vitamins may be deficient it is always a good idea to test.
Test don’t guess – this will ensure you’re getting more of the vitamin you need which will give better results and probably save you money.
Always a good place to start. Check your symptoms against the deficiency symptoms under every vitamin and see if there is a pattern. Eg tiredness maybe obviously be due to poor sleep, various hormone imbalances, but it may also be due to poor energy production because of B vitamin deficiency
Your doctor can test the individual vitamins, such as D, B12, Folic Acid, etc.
My favourite way of testing as blood levels don’t tell you have much gets in the cells and how cell function – urine does. This test gives an overview of B-vitamins related to energy production, neurotransmitter production and function and oxidative stress (and so much more).
Daily Doses of Vitamins
There are two benchmarks for nutritional evaluation
- RDA is the lower level of nutrition
- ODA is upper safe level of nutrition.
RDA – Recommended Daily Allowance
- The dose necessary to avoid disease, such as scurvy, rickets, etc.
ODA – Optimal Daily Allowance
- The dose recommended for optimal body function, full health and vitality
This third level also known as Megavitamin Therapy where levels of vitamins are often many times greater than the RDA in the attempt to prevent or treat diseases. Typically used in alternative medicine by practitioners who call their approach orthomolecular medicine
Multivitamins – Good or a Waste of Money?
- Multivitamins often refer to a combination of vitamins and minerals – everything you need in one pill
- You probably take them to protect your health
- And yes, wouldn’t it be great if all the nutrients you need were in that pill
- Unfortunately, there is still limited evidence that a daily cocktail of essential vitamins and minerals actually delivers what you expect.
- This study of 161,000 post-menopausal women provided, “convincing evidence that multivitamin use has little or no influence on the risk of common cancers, cardiovascular disease, or total mortality in postmenopausal women” according to the authors – Neuhouser ML, Wassertheil-Smoller S, Thomson C, et al. (2009). “Multivitamin use and risk of cancer and cardiovascular disease in the Women’s Health Initiative cohorts”
- So, you may be wasting your money?
NB! supplementing multivitamins is not the same as supplementing individual vitamins, test – don’t guess or waste your money on the multi’s.
ADA 800 mcg – ODA 1500 – 3000 mcg per day
- Vitamin A refers to
– Retinol found in animal foods
– Carotenoids found in plant foods, such as vegetables and fruits, which are converted to vitamin A in the body.
- The body uses Retinol
- Sight especially at night
- Immune system
- DNA production and maintenance
- Skin / mucous membranes
Deficiency can lead to
- Night blindness
- In extreme cases death
NB careful not to overdose via supplements as vitamin A is fat-soluble.
- Strengthens the production and new formation of skin tissue and therefore keeps the skin elastic and young, which is why it acts as an anti-aging vitamin.
- Strengthens the skin and helps keep the skin and epidermis healthy.
- Skin problems such as acne, impure skin, rosacea, psoriasis, dry and scaly skin benefit from extra vitamin A.
- Zinc, vitamin C and E increase the uptake and utilization of vitamin A.
- Iron deficiency often go hand in hand with Vit A deficiency
- Alcohol, tobacco, environmental toxins inhibit the utilization of vitamin A.
Focus on vitamin A if you
- Work in bright light
- Do a lot of computer work
- Have weak mucous membranes.
Foods with Retinol
Liver, fatty fish (mackerel and sardines), fish oil, egg yolks and dairy products.
Foods with Carotenoids
Broccoli, kale, white cabbage, Brussels sprouts, spinach, tomatoes, carrots, sweet potatoes and mangoes.
Vit A Creams for Slow Aging
Tretinoin a class of medications called retinoids also known as Retin A gels in two strengths, 0.025% or 0.01%
- Reduces fine lines and wrinkles
- Reduces inflammation related to acne – unclogging pores
- Decreases hyperpigmentation
- Improves texture of the skin
- Increases collagen synthesis
Potential side effects
- Keep in mind that you shouldn’t expose skin to the sun when using retinoids or retinol
- Cover up with sunscreen and a hat, as vitamin A makes skin a little more susceptible to sun damage
- Avoid tretinoin products if you are pregnant or trying to become pregnant because it could cause birth defects.
- B vitamins are a group of water-soluble vitamins, which means that they cannot be stored in the body (apart from B12) and therefore must be added daily via the diet or as a dietary supplement.
- In nature, the various B vitamins are not found in isolation, and therefore vitamin B’s should be taken as a complex.
- A B-complex dietary supplement often contains six to eight of the various B vitamins.
- However, there are supplements where only B6, B12 and B9-folic acid are combined, which is especially important for cardiovascular health and one of the body’s processes called methylation.
- Cell metabolism
- Cellular energy production
- Production of red blood cells
- Production of neurotransmitters.
- Cardiovascular health
- Health skin and hair
- Prevent infection
- Healthy foetus development
- Brain health and mood
Deficiency can lead to
- Tiredness and fatigue
- Reduced brain and nervous system functions
- Poor healing
Meet the B’s
B1 – Thiamine
RDA 1.2 mg, ODA unknown
- Enables the body to use carbohydrates as energy.
- Essential for glucose metabolism
- Plays a key role in nerve, muscle, and heart function.
Dark green vegetables, whole grains (especially bran and oat germ), peas, lentils and nuts.
B2 – Riboflavin
ADA 1.4 mg, ODA unknown
- Carbohydrate energy production
- Skin health
- Production of new red blood cells
- Growth and overall good health
Liver, milk and dairy products,
Asparagus, dark green vegetables, chicken, fish and eggs
B3 – Niacin
ADA 15 mg, ODA up to 900 mg
- Important for cell energy production
- Healthy nervous system
- Healthy digestive system
- Healthy skin – can support treatment of acne, rosacea, dermatitis, etc.
- Good blood circulation.
Liver, chicken, turkey, salmon, tuna
Legumes incl. peanuts
B4 – Choline
RDA unknown – ODA maybe 425 – 550 mg
- The formation of phospholipids
- Production of neurotransmitter Acetylcholine
- An important methyl donor – trimethylglycine / betaine
- Cholesterol metabolism
Liver, egg yolk, meat and fish
Oat germ, lecithin (often from soy)
B5 – Pantothenic acid
RDA 6 mg, ODA unknown
- Healthy skin, hair, and eyes
- Proper functioning of the nervous system and liver
- Healthy gut
- Making red blood cells
- Making sex and stress-related hormones in the adrenal glands
Liver, yogurt, avocado
Lentils, sweet potatoes and broccoli
B6 – Pyridoxine
RDA 1.3 mg, ODA 25 mg
- Improve mood, reduce depression
- Promote brain health, may reduce risk for Alzheimer’s
- Aid haemoglobin production
- Support immune function
Liver and tuna
Whole grains (especially in bran and germ), sunflower seeds, pistachios
B7 – Biotin
RDA 30mcg, ODA up t o100mcg
- Boosts the health of the hair and nails
- Supports a healthy pregnancy
- Helps manage blood sugar levels
Especially liver and egg yolk, but also salmon, avocado, cheese
- Whole grains (especially bran)
- B8 – Inositol
- RDA unknown, ODA maybe 1000 – 4000mg
- May help with balance neurotransmitter and reduce the severity of mental conditions such as
- Panic disorder
- Obsessive-compulsive disorder
- May help insulin work better which may help
- Blood sugar levels
- PCOS / polycystic ovary syndrome
- Diabetes during pregnancy
- May decreases diabetic nerve pain
- May help with insomnia
- Promotes hair growth
- Helps with psoriasis
- Treating side effects of medical treatment with lithium
- Healthy cell membranes
Fruit, whole grains, legumes
B9 – Folic acid
RDA 200 mcg, ODA 1000 mcg
- Healthy DNA and RNA
- Healthy foetus development
- Prevents against Spina Bifida
- Health red blood cells
- Cardiovascular health
- B12 activation/methylation
Spinach, kale and other vegetables as well as fruits
B12 – Cobalamin
RDA 1.4 mcg – ODA unknown
- Healthy DNA
- Healthy red blood cells, preventing anaemia
- Protects against birth defect
- Healthy bones
- Healthy eyes and vision
- Improves mood
- May help prevent brain atrophy and memory loss
- Healthy heart by metabolising Homocysteine
- Healthy skin, protecting against of hypopigmentation / Vitiligo
Only in animal foods, especially liver, but also seafood and beef.
ADA 75 mg – ODA 1000 mg per day
- Also known as ascorbic acid
- An important antioxidant for the water-soluble parts of the body, cell fluid and blood plasma.
- Vitamin C forms partners with vitamin E, which covers the fat-soluble parts of the body.
- Unlike most other mammals, we humans can no longer make vitamin C, so we have to eat for it.
- Vitamin C deficiency is rarely seen today but optimal levels are not always reached.
- Growth, development and repair of all body tissues
- Protect cells from oxidative stress
- Formation of collagen
- Absorption of iron
- Proper functioning of the immune system
- Wound healing
- Maintenance of cartilage, bones, and teeth
- Maintenance of healthy skin and blood vessels
Deficiency can lead to
- Severe deficiency causes scurvy
- Milder deficiencies cause
- Easy bruising
- Bleeding gums
- Loose teeth
- Dry hair and skin
- Anaemia due to low iron uptake
- Poor wound healing
- Weak bones
- Poor immunity
- Chronic inflammation and oxidative stress
- Vitamin C is one of the most powerful and anti-aging vitamins because vitamin C supports the production of collagen and elastin in skin, bone and connective tissue
- Prevents hyper-pigmentation, lines and wrinkles in the skin.
- Helps in wound healing, both as an antioxidant and new tissue growth.
- Has an antihistamine effect and is therefore good for eczema.
- Flavonoids from fruits, vegetables and herbs can increase the uptake of vitamin C.
- Vitamin C utilization is reduced by smoking, alcohol, pollution, stress, trans fatty acids and deep-fried foods.
- Vitamin C also promotes the absorption of iron
Focus on Vitamin C if you
- Are stressed
- Drink large amounts of alcohol
- Have a weak immune system
- Mental tension
- Poor intake of fruits and veggies.
Foods with vitamin C
Fruits and vegetables – especially citrus fruits, kiwis, berries, tomatoes, cauliflower, fresh potatoes and green leafy vegetables
Raw liver, fish roe, eggs, small amounts in raw meat and raw fish
ADA 10-20 mcg – ODA 100mcg per day
- Vitamin D known as sunshine vitamin, which is formed naturally in keratocytes in the 2 innermost layers of the epidermis when exposed to the sun’s UVB ultraviolet rays
- In the summer, when the sun is high and your shadow is shorter than yourself, the skin forms lots of vitamin D called cholecalciferol or D3, but in the fall and winter, when the sun is low in the sky in Northern Europe, D3 formation can be insufficient making supplementation important/essential
- Many suffer from vitamin D deficiency during the winter months
- D3 is also found in animal foods and as a dietary supplement and is converted to calcifediol in the liver
- D2 which is called ergocalciferol, which is found in plant foods and is the form used to enrich foods, which are also converted to calcifediol in the liver.
- Strong bones
- Strong immune system
- Regulating Calcium and Phosphorus
Deficiency can lead to
- Often sick
- Fatigue and tiredness
- Bone and back pain
- Bone loss
- Hair loss
- Muscle pain and weakness
- Poor wound healing
- Autoimmune diseases
- Increases the uptake of calcium (calcium), iron, magnesium, zinc and phosphate from the gut and is necessary for the metabolism of calcium and phosphate by the bones and teeth.
- Recent studies show a link between low vitamin D levels and autoimmune diseases such as sclerosis, rheumatoid arthritis and type 1 diabetes, as well as certain types of cancer, such as breast and colon cancer.
Focus on Vitamin D if you
- Have arthritis
- Have osteoporosis or a predisposition to osteoporosis
- After menopause
- Overuse of sunscreen especially in northern countries where sun exposure is limited
- Skin challenges like rosacea, psoriasis, vitiligo
Foods containing vitamin D3
Cod liver oil, fatty fish, sardines, mackerel, herring, eel, salmon, halibut, eggs and supplements
Foods containing vitamin D2
Fungi grown under UV light, fortified foods and supplements
For strong bones, a combination of calcium, magnesium, D3 and K2 is a good cocktail.
RDA 6 – 8 mg – ODA up to 300 mg.
- Vitamin E consists of a family of eight different fatty acids that have strong antioxidant effects in the body.
- Foods contain a combination of several of the eight fatty acids, but as a dietary supplement, vitamin E often contains only one of its kind, namely alpha tocopherol.
- Vitamin E supplements should be taken in conjunction with fatty meals, to ensure absorption in the body
- Never eat vitamin E at the same time as birth control pills / hormones and iron supplements as they can oxidize Vit E.
- Always take vitamin C with vitamin E and preferably with Q10 as they have a synergistic effect, as antioxidants.
- Should be a part of any anti-aging protocol.
- Immune health
- Antioxidant protection
- Healthy blood, brain and skin
Deficiency can lead to
- Impaired reflexes and coordination
- Difficulty walking
- Weak muscles
- Vision problems
- Weakened immune system
- Protects the body s fat-soluble parts from free radicals by acting as an antioxidant
- Can be protective in the skin against UV radiation
- An important building block in the formation of cell membranes
- Preventive effect on skin aging, such as wrinkles
- Increases wound healing reducing scaring
- Provides antioxidant protection
- Promotes skin circulation.
Focus on vitamin E if you
- do a lot of sports
- swim in chlorinated water
- have wrinkles or premature aging,
- skin problems such as eczema,
- take birth control pills
- suffer from infertility or impotence
Foods with Vitamin E
Fish and dairy products
Wheat germ oil, sesame oil, sunflower, soy and peanut oil, nuts (especially almonds), all seeds, avocados, olives, spinach, asparagus and carrots.
ADA 90 mg, ODA not known due to own production
- Vitamin K is a group of vitamins, K1 and K2
- K2 can be made by bacteria in the colon, but usually not in sufficient amounts,
- Intake of vitamin K1 (and K2) through the diet is necessary
- Blood clotting and bruising
- Bone formation and strength
- Cardiovascular health.
Deficiency can lead to
- Increased bleeding
- Weak bone
- Calcium deposits in the blood vessels.
- Plays a role in maintaining the skin’s elasticity where it helps protect the skin from loss of elastin, premature aging and wrinkles.
- Iron, antibiotics, low-fat diets inhibit vitamin K.
Focus on vitamin K if you
- Have prolonged menstrual bleeding and or nosebleeds,
- Digestive problems
- After antibiotic treatment due to disturbed intestinal flora,
Foods with vitamin K1
Dark green vegetables such as kale, spinach and broccoli.
Foods with vitamin K2
Organ meats (especially liver), egg yolk, butter and cheeses like Gouda or French Brie if they are based on unpasteurized milk and other fermented foods like sauerkraut.
- Are substances that stop / prevent oxidation and thus the overproduction of free radicals
- To balance oxidative stress the body needs antioxidants
- The body produces antioxidant enzymes, such as glutathione peroxidase, catalase and superoxide dismutase / SOD
- And antioxidants are gained through the diet, such as vitamins C and E.
- Also called internal or endogenous
- Inhibit the formation of new radicals and reduce those that exist.
– Superoxide Dismutase (SOD)
– Glutathione peroxidase
- Work continuously and can reduce millions of free radicals per second
- Also called external or exogenous
- Capture free radicals and thus prevent their harmful effects.
- An “antioxidant radical” is often formed that has a reactivity significantly less than the ‘free radical’.
- These antioxidants work only once and therefore need to be added continuously.