The Multivitamin-Mineral Cornerstone of a personal program
The first step in establishing your personal vitamin program is to ensure that every day you are receiving those vitamins and other nutrients that are truly essential to the human body. Since thousands of dietary supplement products are available, claiming to benefit every manner of body function, here are some guidelines to help separate the wheat from the chaff. Let’s start with the multivitamin- mineral (MVM) product.
To do what it is supposed to do, your MVM should provide just about ALL the vitamins and minerals truly proven essential to human health. The list of known vitamins hasn’t changed much in recent decades; it includes vitamin A, vitamins B1, B2, B3, B5, B6, and B12, (the missing numbers were those which proved not to be truly essential) and vitamins C, D, E and K. Folate and biotin are also vitamins, as are the essential fatty acids, which are discussed below. Choline was recently established as essential. A number of minerals are also proven essential to survival.
Minerals are not organic since they do not contain carbon and thus cannot be called vitamins. However, certain minerals are as essential to survival as are the vitamins. For a number of minerals, deficiency states are established and recommended dietary allowances exist. Of these, sodium and phosphorus don’t need to be supplemented since they are more than adequately represented in the daily diet. Vanadium has never been proven essential and has some suspicious actions; microgram amounts may be acceptable in your MVM, but milligram amounts cannot be justified. Similarly, fluorine can be toxic and very likely is not essential.
Unequivocally, every person, whatever their age, gender or state of health can benefit from taking a multivitamin-mineral product on a daily basis. A good MVM will provide all the vitamins and essential minerals, minimally in amounts of at least 100 percent of the “daily values.” The daily values seen on the dietary supplement product labels are the RDAs (Recommended Dietary Allowances) recalculated on the basis of each 2000 “calorie” intake of food per day (kilocalories, really). A good multivitamin-mineral will also supply close to 100 percent of the daily values for the following minerals: magnesium, calcium, iron, zinc, copper, selenium, silicon, iodine, manganese, molybdenum, boron, and chromium. Potassium, unfortunately, is kept low (around 99 mg daily maximum) by regulation.
Don’t take “one-a-day” MVM formulas seriously: one tablet or capsule a day simply cannot pack in decent amounts of all the necessary nutrients. A good MVM cannot be packed into less than 2–4 or up to six capsules or tablets per day, divided between two or three meals.
As you shop for a good MVM, you must examine the label carefully or you’ll waste your money. By law, the manufacturer has to list the ingredients on the label. Also, some MVMs provide meaningful amounts of certain standardized herbal extracts, namely minimum tens of milligrams each of ginkgo biloba extract and/or milk thistle extract, grape seed extract, pine bark extract, bilberry standardized extract, and hawthorn berry extract. These add to the quality of the product, since they have proven health benefits.
There are two kinds of EFA, omega-6 and omega-3, the two kinds compete with each other for uptake and utilization and play a “yin-yang” role in the body by delicately balancing and complementing each other’s effects. It’s been found that supplementing the diet with certain omega-3s will protect against heart attacks and strokes, and generally help protect the body against inflammatory damage.
Take extra Vitamin C and Vitamin E
As the scientific research on vitamins and minerals has progressed, the recommended daily amounts of minerals necessary for good health have not changed much. Among the vitamins, the benefits of some extend to such large amounts that we cannot expect full intakes from our MVM product and are forced to take them as additional supplements. Two proven examples are vitamin C (ascorbate) and vitamin E (d-alpha, beta, gamma, and delta tocopherols [ VERY IMPORTANT ]).
It used to be that so-called experts would scoff at the late Professor Linus Pauling when he talked about taking grams of vitamin C every day. They said we would just be making expensive urine if we tried to do what he did. yet there was good research even then to show that Pauling was right; those “experts” just didn’t want to work the data into their ideological agenda. Some went so far as to fudge existing data in order to deny that vitamin C helps prevent the common cold; others purposely miss-designed human studies to try to show that vitamin C could not help treat disease. But the majority of researchers stayed honest, as their own research led them to discover that, yes, Hoffer, Cathcart, Cheraskin, Pauling and the others were right: vitamin C could do marvelous things for human health.
The essential fatty acids are Vitamins
The essential fatty acids (EFA) are oily substances, which are really vitamins because deficiency states have been demonstrated for them. There are two kinds of EFA, omega-6 and omega-3, differing in their molecular details but sharing the same enzyme systems. The two kinds compete with each other for uptake and utilization and play a “yin-yang” role in the body by delicately balancing and complementing each other’s effects. unfortunately, in today’s world we are getting either too little of both kinds if we eat a lot of junk food, or too little of the omega-3s if we eat the typical Western diet. Now it’s been found that supplementing the diet with certain omega-3s will protect against heart attacks and strokes, and generally help protect the body against inflammatory damage.
The omega-3s that work best are DHA and EPA, some of which can be obtained by consuming cold water fish, though we do recommend supplementation. A certain amount of omega-6 intake is also important, and this is best obtained from GLA. In the future, you will see the EFA included in MVM products, but for now they are mostly available only as oils in softgel capsules.
Conditionally-essential nutrients sometimes May be Vitamins
A number of substances that have not been established as vitamins through deficiency assessment are nonetheless intricately involved in life processes. One that has been extensively researched is coenzyme Q10 (“CoQ”), otherwise called ubiquinone. CoQ is crucial for the generation of energy in all our cells and makes important contributions to our protective antioxidant defense system. Technically, our cells have the enzyme machinery to make their own CoQ. Why, then, do people with heart problems develop a functional deficiency of CoQ? Alpha-lipoic acid also is crucial for making energy and is also a potent antioxidant. Another example is taurine, which is an antioxidant, antitoxin and electro-osmotic buffer substance found in the heart tissue, the nerve tissues and in all our cells. yet another is carnitine, which is also important for the heart and is central to the body’s energetics. These nutrients all fit the category of conditionally-essential nutrients in that portions of the population are critically unable to make enough to keep up with body demand for them. Occasionally, a nutrient previously thought conditionally-essential is proven fully essential for humans, as recently occurred with choline.
Deficiencies in the conditionally-essential nutrients can be life-threatening. For CoQ, taurine, carnitine, and some other such nutrients, the bio-synthetic pathways are especially complex and energy intensive. Elderly or sick people, or people with chronic viral infections, may produce either none at all or quantities insufficient to keep up with demand. For such people, supplementing with these nutrients is likely to be a good idea. For individuals with heart failure, a condition in which deficiencies of all three of these nutrients can manifest, supplementing with all three daily may be a lot more than just a good idea.
The conditionally-essential nutrients are all orthomolecules. As conceived by Professor Pauling, orthomolecules are substances orthodox to our metabolism; that is, they are part and parcel of our normal enzyme pathways. Certain more sophisticated MVMs have included carnitine, taurine, NAC (N-acetyl cysteine), alpha-lipoic acid, MSM (methylsulfonylmethane), DMAE (dimethylaminoethanol), and other orthosubstances. These are undeniably valuable for your health, but your MVM will not be able to provide all that you need, and for your special health needs you’ll need to consider additional supplement products.
Stress of any kind increases the body’s nutrient requirements Never underestimate the power of stress to make you sick. Emotional stress works through many mechanisms to damage our tissues. But stress is far more than just emotional.
Although the word “stress” is commonly taken to mean emotional stress, its meaning for the body is much broader. In a biological sense, stress means any challenge to the body’s life processes and survival skills. For example, exposure to too much cold or heat is stressful. Malnourishment or eating junk food is stressful. Too much noise is stressful. Fits of anger are stressful, and anxiety and depression exacerbate emotional stress. Chemicals foreign to the body cause stress, as they react with our biological molecules and so modify our body chemistry.
One of the most stressful chemical agents is cigarette smoke. Oxygen free radicals, tars, heavy metals, and radioactive substances in cigarette smoke, whether inhaled actively or passively, deplete virtually all the types of nutrients in the body, and as this happens, the risk of asthma, bronchitis, cancer, and heart disease skyrockets. Chlorinated hydrocarbon pollutants entering our bodies from the air, water and foods deplete our antioxidants and many other orthomolecules and thereby increase the risks of cancer, nerve damage, memory loss, and liver or kidney failure. Alcohol intake is stressful, whether or not a person is an alcoholic.
Other sources of stress include infectious agents (ALL viruses or bacteria, fungi such as yeasts and molds, protozoan or worm parasites, mycoplasmas such as the one that causes pneumonia). Infectious agents hijack our biochemical machinery to meet their needs. These intruders also siphon off vitamins and minerals that we need to make energy and otherwise conduct our life processes. As the immune system mounts assaults these unwanted guests, fever and other inflammation develop that literally burn away our antioxidant reserves and accelerate our losses of B vitamins and minerals. That’s why increasing your intake of the superb antioxidant vitamin C and minerals such as zinc and magnesium can make such a difference when you have a cold. Don’t underrate the importance of nutrients against the stress of infection. Increased nutrient intakes will even help slow AIDS progression.
OTC and other drugs Can deplete nutrients
Many over-the-counter drugs can deplete the body of essential nutrients. Acetaminophen (Tylenol®) depletes glutathione, an antioxidant substance that is key to the functioning of the liver. Liver failure can be the result. Aspirin, one of Tylenol’s competitors, is no more innocent except that it targets the stomach rather than the liver. Aspirin can deplete folate and vitamin C, and it breaks up the phospholipid surfactant layer that normally protects the stomach lining, with ulcers often arising that then bleed and deplete the body of iron.
Antacid use also can be a problem, depleting the body of folate as well as copper. Certain laxatives and stool softeners can do tremendous damage by reducing the absorption of minerals, vitamins and other nutrients and depleting the body of water. Overuse of laxatives is common, especially among girls and women concerned about gaining weight, depressed people preoccupied with bowel function, and constipated elderly patients. Prescription drugs are worse than the OTCs, and more than 600 of these are known to be toxic to the liver.
Among prescription drugs, those classes most proven to deplete nutrients include oral contraceptives (vitamin B6, vitamin C, folate), antibiotics (vitamin B12, vitamin K, iron, magnesium, calcium; also the friendly gut bacteria), cholesterol-lowering agents (coenzyme CoQ), and diuretics (sodium, potassium, calcium). Tricyclic antidepressants can deplete vitamin B2 and CoQ. We could go on and on about drugs and the damage they do to our bodies, but the pattern is clear: persons taking pharmaceuticals of any kind need to increase their daily intakes of multivitamin-minerals and antioxidants.
Managing specific health problems and healing organ damage
The topic of therapeutic nutritional supplementation is a huge one. Hundreds of books have been written, and tens of thousands of scientific papers have been published on the uses of vitamins and other nutrients to treat clinical disease conditions in order to achieve healing. Drugs don’t heal, and government regulatory agencies, goaded on by the pharmaceutical drug interests, have done their best to shut down this entire field of nutritional application. They’ve spectacularly failed, though, because the records show that vitamins and minerals can be employed in combination with other orthomolecules and with herbal preparations to manage, heal or cure just about any disease or dysfunction. Not only this, but in so doing they outperform the drugs in all areas. Here nutrients become nutraceuticals, to be administered in doses sufficient to give maximum benefit against a disease. Sophisticated nutraceutical combinations are personalized to the needs of the individual. Some clinicians and scientists believe, as do we, that even aging can be slowed using this strategy.
Every one of us has an “Achilles Heel” in our body makeup, some weakness or weaknesses that will likely bring on ill health or premature aging and without intervention will likely shorten life. By learning to be aware of our body’s grunts, groans, squeaks, and quirks, and by working with trained professionals, we can target these weaknesses for special treatment in order to slow progressive functional loss (as the liver carrying a chronic virus, for example), to reverse existing loss (as memory function) or even to heal longstanding zones of trauma (as a damaged joint). At this level of a personal vitamin program, the potential benefit is lifesaving, and this is both the promise and challenge of 21st century health care.
Doctor Parris Kidd
Dr. Kidd has been a contributing editor and science advisor to Total Health magazine since 1996. His columns include interviews with Dr. Andrew Weil, cancer treatment pioneers Drs. Nick Gonzalez and Linda Isaacs, Dr. Dharma Khalsa, Dr. Barrie Tan, and environmentalist Erin Brockovich. Other columns such as Why You Should Take Vitamins became instant classics. Dr. Parris Kidd’s website provides detailed information on his professional reviews, seminars, books and other career accomplishments.