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The Complete Guide to Vitamins, Herbs, and SupplementsThe Holistic Path to Good Health
By Winifred Conkling
HarperCollins Publishers, Inc.Copyright © 2006 Winifred Conkling
All right reserved.
Vitamins and Minerals
Vitamins and minerals are essential for good health, but which ones do you need for optimal health? This chapter will help you understand the biological importance of various vitamins and minerals, and it will provide details on how to safely use these nutritional supplements. This information can be used in conjunction with the health information described in Chapter 7, as you design a supplement plan to meet your specific health needs.
How Much Is Enough -- and Too Much?
If you're like most people, you probably don't eat what you should every day. You may reach for burgers and fries or cookies and cakes with some regularity, making you wonder whether you should supplement your daily bread with a daily vitamin.
In virtually all cases, the answer is yes. A well-balanced diet is a cornerstone of good health, but multivitamins and nutrition supplements can come in handy when you want to make up for dietary failings. A daily vitamin provides peace of mind that you are getting enough nutrients, even on the days when you succumb to temptation.
Faced with the possibility of nutritional shortfalls, some people may be tempted to load up with vitamin and mineral supplements. But the "if some is good, more is better" approach does not apply to vitamins. Large doses of vitamins over long periods of time can trigger side effects, some of which can be serious.
When using nutritional supplements, you will take either a daily dose, which can be taken at a given amount on an ongoing basis, or a therapeutic dose, which should be used for a limited time to give the body a boost in either preventing or managing an illness. To avoid overdose, take the higher amount only during the course of the illness or as long as recommended on the product label.
You should also be aware that vitamins can be either fat- or water-soluble. Fat-soluble vitamins are stored in the body; megadoses of these vitamins can build up in the body and cause dangerous side effects. The fat-soluble vitamins are vitamin A, vitamin D, vitamin E, and vitamin K. Water-soluble vitamins are stored in smaller amounts in the body and must be consumed more often. They include the B vitamins and vitamin C. Excessive amounts of water-soluble vitamins are excreted from the body in the urine.
The following section provides an alphabetical list of vitamins and minerals, including information on food sources of the nutrient, signs of deficiency, medical uses, dosages, side effects, and any known drug interactions. You can refer back to these entries from Chapter 7 when you want specific information on the use of these nutrients for the treatment of medical problems.
Vitamins and Minerals A to Z
Biotin -- also known as vitamin B7 and vitamin H -- is a member of the B vitamin family. Its primary functions in the body are to assist with the metabolism of fats, carbohydrates, and proteins, and to help with cell growth and facilitate the utilization of the other B vitamins. Biotin also has proved helpful in lowering and controlling the blood sugar levels in people with either insulin-dependent or non-insulin-dependent diabetes.
Good Food Sources: Soy, whole grains, egg yolk, almonds, walnuts, oatmeal, mushrooms, broccoli, bananas, peanuts, liver, kidney, milk, legumes, sunflower seeds, and nutritional yeast.
Signs of Deficiency: Signs of biotin deficiency include depression, hair loss, high blood sugar, anemia, loss of appetite, insomnia, muscle cramps, nausea, and a sore tongue. In addition, low biotin levels have been linked to seborrheic dermatitis in infants; biotin's role in causing this condition in adults has not been established.
Biotin deficiency is very rare, in part because this vitamin can be manufactured by the intestines from other foods. Long-term use of antibiotics, however, can hinder production of biotin and lead to deficiency symptoms. Signs of deficiency are also seen in people who regularly consume raw egg whites, which contain a protein called avidin that prevents the absorption of biotin into the blood.
Uses of Biotin: Biotin is used in the treatment of diabetes (page 219).
Dosage Information: The adult RDA is 100 to 200 micrograms; the therapeutic dose is 200 micrograms. Purchase either a multivitaminmineral supplement or a B-complex formula that contains biotin. Most people do not need to take a separate biotin supplement unless they are treating diabetes, in which case it is recommended you do so under a doctor's guidance.
Possible Side Effects: Biotin is a nontoxic, water-soluble vitamin; if excessive amounts are taken, it is excreted in the urine without causing adverse effects. People with diabetes who are taking insulin may need to decrease their insulin dosage if they take more than 4 milligrams of biotin daily; diabetics should be under a doctor's care.
Possible Interactions: Biotin works in conjunction with the other B vitamins. Substances that can interfere with bioavailability of biotin include antibiotics, saccharin, and sulfa drugs.
Boron is a trace mineral that plays an important role in maintaining healthy bones, cartilage, and joints. It is also essential for the absorption of calcium, magnesium, and phosphorus. In addition, boron has been credited with enhancing brain function and promoting mental alertness.
Good Food Sources: Raisins, almonds, prunes, most noncitrus fruits, and leafy green vegetables. (The level of boron in various foods depends on the level of boron in the soil.)
Signs of Deficiency: No cases of boron deficiency have been reported. Low levels of boron have been associated with an increased risk of osteoporosis in postmenopausal women.
Uses of Boron: Boron is used in the treatment of osteoarthritis (page 176) and osteoporosis (page 296).
Dosage Information: Boron is not included in many multivitaminmineral formulas because the federal government has not established an RDA for boron. For general health, look for a multivitamin that contains 1.5 to 3 milligrams of boron. If you have osteoarthritis or osteoporosis, consider taking 3 to 9 milligrams of boron daily in tablet or powder form. Look for sodium borate or boron chelates for osteoporosis; look for sodium tetraborate decahydrate for the treatment of osteoarthritis.
Excerpted from The Complete Guide to Vitamins, Herbs, and Supplements by Winifred Conkling Copyright © 2006 by Winifred Conkling. Excerpted by permission.
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