Category Archives: Vitamins and Minerals

Why Bioflavonoids?

 ~ written by Katolen Yardley, MNIMH, Medical Herbalist

During winter months it is common for people to begin using their Vitamin C supplement for both cold and flu prevention and to enhance immune system function.

Unbeknownst to many, bioflavonoids taken together with Vitamin C actually enhance the absorption of the Vitamin C supplement, increasing its benefit to the body. Bioflavonoids, also known as Vitamin P, are used to enhance the absorption and therapeutic effects of Vitamin C. Some types of Bioflavonoids include quercetin, rutin and hesperetin. Not supplied by the body, we must obtain the benefits of these nutrients from the foods that we eat and through nutritional supplements.

Bioflavonoids work together with Vitamin C to:

  • Strengthen the walls of blood vessels and capillaries.
  • Help to prevent and minimize bruising.
  • Help treat varicose veins and promote circulation.
  • Enhances white blood cells response to Vitamin C,  offering increased resistance to infection, and enhancing Vitamin C’s anti viral and anti bacterial effects in the body.
  • Help to prevent vision problems associated with intraocular pressure and assist in cataract prevention.
  • Help to treat gum disease, heal swollen bleeding gums and retard plaque buildup.
  • Strengthens the collagen structures in the arteries, helps to lower total cholesterol levels and raise HDL (healthy) cholesterol levels.

Bioflavonoids are found in peppers, buckwheat, apricots, the white rind inside of the peel of citrus fruits, berries, rosehips, blueberries, grapefruits, watercress, kale, elderberries, paprika, garlic and onions. Ensure that your choice of Vitamin C, contains bioflavonoids (as many excellent quality supplements, combine them together) or take an extra supplement of mixed bioflavonoids with your vitamin C to enhance the absorption.

Understanding Vitamin D…

written by Katolen Yardley, MNIMH, Medical Herbalist

During the winter months of limited sunlight exposure or in the case of individuals who rarely are exposed to sunlight, vitamin D deficiencies may be prevalent.

Known as the sunshine vitamin and manufactured on the skin, Vitamin D is converted by the liver to an inactive storage form called calcidiol (25-hyrdoxy vitamin D) and then converted again by the kidneys into the biologically active form 1,25-dihydroxy Vitamin D (also known as 1,25 dihydroxycholecalciferal), which is stored in fat calls and also circulates through the bloodstream.

Vitamin D is involved in the production of numerous proteins and enzymes used to fight disease, repair muscles, strengthen bones and maintain overall health. Vitamin D works with Magnesium to stimulate the absorption of Calcium into the bones and works best taken together with these minerals.

When outdoors and before application of a sunscreen, exposure of the arms, legs and face to the suns ultraviolet rays for 15 minutes daily will likely ensure adequate levels of Vitamin D synthesis into the body.

Studies indicate that deficiencies of Vitamin D can be a contributing factor in the development of colon cancer, breast cancer, prostate cancer, diabetes, metabolic syndrome, high blood pressure, osteoporosis, infectious disease, and inflammatory bowel disease and auto immune dysfunction such as: rheumatoid arthritis, lupus and multiple sclerosis. Research is also indicating that daily Vitamin D supplementation offers protection against the development of rickets, osteoporosis, colorectal, prostate and breast cancer. Supplementation with Vitamin D cannot guarantee the development of these disorders; however it is certainly one of many nutrients known to protect the body from onset of chronic disorders.

Food sources of Vitamin D include salt water fish, egg yolks, dandelion greens, sweet potatoes, tuna, vegetable oils, salmon, halibut, sardines, herring, mackerel, parsley, nettle, horsetail and alfalfa.

Individuals suffering from malabsorption problems such as celiac disease or crohn’s may not be absorbing adequate amounts of Vitamin D; certain medications such as some cholesterol medications, antacids, mineral oil, steroids, cortisone and thiazide diuretics can also interfere with absorption of Vitamin D.

In supplement form, there are 2 types of Vitamin D: Naturally occurring and the most active form, D3 or cholecalciferol (from fish oil, eggs, organ meats, sheep’s wool, cod liver oil and plant sources)and the synthetic, irradiated D2 or ergocalciferol, (less biologically active) and found in fortified foods, fortified milkand some supplements.

Ensure you take only the naturally occurring pure Vitamin D3 (cholecalciferol), as the body assimilates this in the same way that it uses Vitamin D formed from sunlight. Avoid ingestion of the synthetic Vitamin D2, as similar to many synthetic products, the synthetic Vitamin D has been shown to be toxic in high dosages.

Determine your need for supplementation with Vitamin D before you take it. A lack of vitamin D will contribute to many chronic illnesses however like many fat soluble vitamins, Vitamin D is stored in the body thus taking too much is not desirable; request a calcidiol 25-hydroxyvitamin D (or a 25(OH)D) blood test from your doctor to determine if you are deficient. Ideal calcidiol [25-hydroxy vitamin D] levels are between 35-65 ng/ml [87-162 nm/L], year around.

Individuals with sarcoidosis, tuberculosis, or lymphoma should avoid the use of Vitamin D supplementation without first consulting a health care professional.

For more reading please click on the following Vitamin D links:

The Cholecalciferol Council

The Importance of Label Reading: Choosing Quality Nutritional Supplements

~ written by Katolen Yardley, MNIMH, Medical Herbalist

When choosing a multivitamin or nutritional supplement, reading over the list of non medicinal ingredients is as important as checking out the strength of the active ingredients.

The August, 1990 issue of the Alive Magazine, an informative Canadian Holistic Health Magazine states that in the last 30 years, food additives alone have increased by an alarming 1000 %! Numerous additives, fillers and colorings placed in over-the-counter products, pharmaceutical and prescription pills and packaged foods have been documented to have cumulative and harmfuleffects on our health.

Label reading is crucial for your health and the health of your family.Take the time to educate yourself and consciously choose to avoid ingesting additional chemicals in your food, supplements and prescription medication.

Not all nutritional supplements are manufactured with the same diligent care and high standards as others. While there are many excellent, quality oriented companies committed to improving the health and wellbeing of their clients; there are unfortunately also other companies are clearly more concerned with profit than quality.

In my opinion if a supplement contains a long list of non-medicinal ingredients, complete with chemical sounding names, then it is likely NOT the best quality product. Become an expert label reader. Take the time to read the fine print of all pills and supplements, compare one item with another brand, educate yourself on the names of harmful ingredients and learn how to avoid products containing unnecessary ingredients.

What to look for when choosing high quality supplements? The absence of some non-medicinal ingredients is as important as what the product actually contains. Below is a list of non-medicinal ingredients that are best avoided.

According to “A Consumers Guide of Food Additives”, the highly recommended book written by Ruth Winters and published in 2004, the following ingredients have detrimental effects in the body:

  • Aspartame and artificial sweeteners: Aspartame contains methanol, (a poison, which breaks down into formic acid and formaldehyde in the body. Formaldehyde is a deadly nerve toxin) and phenylalanine. Excessive levels of phenylalanine in the brain has been found to decrease the levels of seratonin in the brain, leading to emotional disorders such as depression. It was shown in human studies that phenylalanine levels of the blood were increased significantly in human subjects who chronically used aspartame. Aspartame is also linked to many documented adverse reactions include: headaches/migraines, dizziness, seizures, nausea, numbness, muscle spasms, weight gain, rashes, depression, fatigue, irritability, tachycardia, insomnia, vision problems, hearing loss, heart palpitations, breathing difficulties, anxiety attacks, slurred speech, loss of taste, tinnitus, vertigo, memory loss, and joint pain, to name a few…
  • FD & C Blue # 2: a colorings agent derived from coal tar, shown to be carcinogenic in animal studies.
  • FD & C Red # 3: another coal tar derivative, also shown to be carcinogenic, may interfere with message relay in the nervous system. (Also found as the coloring agent in maraschino cherries!)
  • FD & C Red # 40: Allura Red: one of the newest colors, not yet established as safe!
  • FD & C Yellow # 5: Tartrazine, derived from coal tar, used primarily in the soft drink industry and found in some lower quality childrens multivitamins. Chemically similar to aspirin, those allergic to aspirin often have an allergy to tartrazine. It is stated in the above reference book that over 60 % of over the counter prescriptions contain tartrazine. Reactions include asthma, rhinitis, rashes, nasal congestion, and changes in mental behavior.
  • FD & C Yellow # 6: (also known as monoazo sunset yellow) an artificial coloring agent, thought to cause allergic reactions.
  • Hydrogenated Soybean Oil: is converted from polyunsaturated fat to saturated fat and can affect the levels of fat in the blood leading to clogged arteries.
  • Avoid any products containing Sucralose, Splenda or any other artificial sweeteners.
  • Hydrogenated vegetable oil: contains MSG, a flavor enhancer linked to allergic reactions, headaches, dizziness,throat constriction and chest pain.
  • Hydrolysed Protein: Hydrolysed Vegetable Protein: a flavor enhancer that also contains MSG, it is recommended that there be a limit placed on the amounts of MSG consumed in children due to its neuro toxic affects in the body. For additional information on MSG click here.
  • Mineral Oil: derived from petroleum based products, known to be carcinogenic, with a toxic effect on the immune system.
  • Lactose: a milk sugar that is best avoided for any individuals with a dairy sensitivity.
  • Isopropyl alcohol: a solvent, also used in antifreeze compositions, prepared from peopylene obtained in the cracking of petroleum.
  • Hydrolysed polyvinyl alcohol: a synthetic resin, thought to be carcinogenic and tumor inducing.
  • Butylated Hydroxytoluene (BHT): a preservative thought to be toxic to the kidneys, by converting into toxic substances or cancer causing agents. BHT isprohibited as an additive in the United Kingdom.

While I will refrain from listing the brands of common commercial supplements best to be avoided; I will suggest however, that choosing health minded, (often) smaller companies committed to quality and consumer education is the best choice, rather than supporting big pharma companies…and it does pay off to take the time to read the labels of nutritional supplements before selecting your choice.Remember: The non-medicinal ingredients are as important as the nutritional content and vitamins listed.

In particular, keep your eyes open for listings of sugar, sucrose and artificial colorings (no one needs unnecessary sugars and fillers, particularly in their multivitamin!).

As some companies conveniently omit the listing of the fillers used in their products, one can not assume that simply not listing the ingredients means that the product is clean. Specifically look for the listing of the non-medicinal ingredients or find a comment stating that the product specifically does not contain additives and fillers.

A positive indication of quality is companies which specifically state on their label, the absence of particular items. On the label, a high quality supplement should specifically list: “contains NO artificial preservatives, artificial colorings, sugar or starch, wheat and dairy”.

How To Choose A Quality Multi Vitamin

When starting a health program, most people feel inclined to begin with a multivitamin. While a multi vitamin does not contain a high enough dosage of any one nutrient to be considered ‘treatment’ for any specific health concern; a multi vitamin is still a useful supplement. I consider a multi vitamin essentially a ‘peace of mind pill’; providing nutrients that one may be lacking in a less-than-optmial diet.

Just as there are various brands and qualities of automobiles on the market, the same is true for brands of nutritional supplements. Marketing plays a big role in sales…What brand names come to mind when you think of multi vitamins? Now go and check their labels! Sadly, just because a brand has been ‘marketed’ successfully does not necessarily mean that it provides the best nutrient value or is the cleanest supplement.

To help guide you in the right direction of a quality multi vitamin, keep your eye on the following:

1. I am a big advocate of label reading, beginning with the non-medicinal ingredients. The non medicinal ingredients can very quickly shed light on the quality of the supplement you may be considering.

A quality multi vitamin should always be free from sugar, lactose, sucrose, wheat, dairy, artificial colourings and chemicals.

I recommend choosing a multi vitamin that is free from synthetic additives such as: propyl ethylene glycol, polyethylene glycol, FD & C colorings, cotton seed oil, mineral oil, aspertame, sorbitol, carmel color, corn starch, methylparaben, dl’alpha tocopherol (synthetic vitamin E), propylparaben, hydrogenated oil, sunset yellow FCF coloring and sodium lauryl sulfate.

These agents are an extra burden for your body and should be avoided in all supplements.

2. Check out the amount of B vitamins provided in your supplement.

B1-thiamin, B2-riboflavin, B3-niacin, B5-pantothenic acid, B6-pyrodixine, B12 -cyanocobalamin, folic acid and biotin are all part of the vitamin B group. B vitamins are essential for healthy nervous system function, supporting our bodies during times of stress and used for concentration, energy and endurance.

The B vitamins are water soluble, which means that they are not stored in the body. When under stress our bodies require higher amounts of this group of nutrients. I like to see at least 25 mg, and ideally 50 mg or higher of most of the B vitamins in a multi-vitamin.

3. Ensure that the vitamin E contained in the multi is from a natural source. The body utilises and absorbs synthetic products very differently than a natural source vitamin. You can tell the difference by reading the fine print. Synthetic vitamin E is identified as: dl’alpha tocopherol. The presence of the ‘L’ means that it is synthetic. A natural source vitamin E is identified as d’alpha tocopherol and ideally contains mixed tocopherols such as beta, delta and gamma tocopherol for enhanced benefits.

4. Choose a supplement that contain Vitamin D3 in the form of cholecalciferol, which is easier for the body to use than its alternative -ergocalciferol.

5. Calcium. The recommended daily allowance of calcium is between 1000 mg-1200 mg daily for a women aged 30-40. This dose is not possible in a multi vitamin, simply due to the size of the pill required to provide that dosage unit, thus supplementation with extra calcium will be useful. That said, you can ensure that you are taking a multi vitamin containing calcium CITRATE for best absorption.

6. You can find multi vitamins in tablet, capsule, liquid and chewable form. It is likely that liquids and chewable vitamins contain additional sweeteners, so read the fine print for details.

7. To best utilise the benefits of the nutrients and for added energy throughout the day, take a Multi Vitamin with your morning meal.

Choosing The Best Calcium Supplement

Choosing the best calcium supplement requires the skill of filtering through endless marketing choices coupled with some basic education on calcium terminology.

Calcium is a mineral required for the activation of several enzyme functions throughout the body and optimal function of all body processes. Calcium is known as a coenzyme required for regulating the heartbeat and blood pressure, the normal contraction of muscles, prevention of cardiovascular disease, for conduction of nerve impulses, is involved in blood clotting, maintaining strong healthy bones and teeth and helps to prevent the absorption of lead.

Calcium is blended with other compounds to form a pill, There are numerous types of calcium on the market, from bone meal, oyster shell calcium and calcium carbonate, coral calcium, chelated calcium, calcium phosphate, calcium gluconate, calcium lactate and calcium citrate; even TUMS has been marketed as a calcium supplement….whoooah..overload!!! Which type does one choose?

Types of Calcium in Supplements

  • Calcium citrate is currently the best type of calcium on the market and is easily absorbed. It can be taken anytime during the day, even on an empty stomach, although I generally recommend taking Calcium Magnesium pills at bedtime to enhance sleep and relaxation.
  • Oyster shell calcium, bone meal and dolomite: these naturally occuring calciums may contain heavy metals, including lead, and have a low absorption rate.
  • Coral Calcium has been associated with many cure-all claims, (to me, this is always a sign to be a little wary) and is essentially a calcium carbonate supplement, one not well absorbed by the body!
  • Contrary to brilliant marketing…TUMS is not an adequate calcium supplement. In fact, this is a terribly misleading claim…First, the calcium found in TUMS is a carbonate source, not well asorbed by the body; plus TUMS is an antacid (antacid= it decreases the amount of hydrochloric acid in the stomach), ironic though… that our body requires adequate levels of hydrochloric acid (stomach acid) for any calcium absorption to occur. So even though TUMS contains calcium, be-it a source already poorly absorbed, the fact that TUMS functions to neutralise stomach acid renders the calcium almost useless to the body.
  • Calcium lactate and calcium gluconate: These products contain a low content of elemental calcium. Thus large dosages of these products are required to meet the daily recommended allowance.

Other Minerals in a Calcium Supplement?

1. Always take Calcium together with Magnesium.The mineral, magnesium, is a catalyst enzyme used to ensure that all the calcium absorbed into the bones, stays in the bones…A lack of magnesium interferes with nerve and muscle message relay and deficiencies can cause muscle weakness, muscle twitching and symptoms of PMS. A high consumption of meat, increased amounts of Vitamin D and Zinc all increase the bodies need for magnesium.

2. Vitamin D: known as the sunshine vitamin, one of the only vitamins the body cannot manufacture on its own.Stimulates absorption of Calcium.

3. Zinc: a mineral involved in the absorption of Calcium.

4. Boron: A trace mineral used for healthy bones and muscles, assists the metabolization of calcium and magnesium. Studies indicate that boron can help prevent post menopausal osteoperosis and build muscle.

These trace nutrients can assist the absorption of calcium, helping this mineral stay in strong healthy bones -where it belongs.

How Much Calcium to Take?

The National Osteoporosis Foundation and the National Acadamy of Sciences recommend the daily allowance (RDA) of calcium at 1000-1200 mg daily for adult men and women.

For a pill to contain this dosage unit, it would be very large and difficult to swallow, thus it is necessary to take 3-4 pills per day to meet the recommended daily allowance.

Fast Facts on Elemental Calcium

Always identify the amount of elemental calcium, (found by reading the fine print on the label) when choosing a calcium pill.

Labelling is often misleading, the elemental calcium is the actual amount of calcium that your body can absorb, and it is always lower than the total calcium. Avoid getting mislead by labels, some manufactures do not even identify the elemental calcium amount on the label and unless you are educated about the elemental calcium level, it would appear that you are getting a higher amount of calcium than you actually are.

If the product label does not identify the elemental calcium levels, then choose another brand!

For example, a pill containing 500mg of Calcium Carbonate provides 200mg of elemental calcium. Hence one pill, in this example, only provides 200mg of calcium, not 500mg… Meaning that you would need to take 5-7 pills daily (not 2-3 pills) to reach the daily RDA of 1000-1200 mg.

For more information on quality calcium magnesium supplements visit our online holistic health market at Alchemy & Elixir Health Group

~ written by Katolen Yardley, MNIMH, Medical Herbalist