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1. Why I Did
My professional education was strictly establishment when it came to vitamins. My courses in pharmacology, biochemistry, organic and inorganic chemistry, and public health hardly dealt with vitamins at all-except in relation to deficiency diseases. Lack of vitamin C? Scurvy. Out of B1? Beriberi. Not enough vitamin D? Rickets. My courses were the standard fare, with the usual references to a balanced diet and eating the "right foods" (all unappetizingly illustrated on semiglossy charts).
There were no references to vitamins being used for disease prevention or as ways to optimum health.
In 1965 I opened my first pharmacy. Until then I never realized just how many drugs people were taking, not for illness but simply to get through the day. (I had one regular patron who had prescriptions for pills to supplant virtually all his bodily functions-and he wasn't even sick!) My partner at the time was very vitamin-oriented. Both of us were working fifteen hours a day, but only I looked and felt it. When I asked him what his secret was, he said it was not secret at all. It was vitamins. I realized what he was talking about had very little to do with scurvy and beriberi and a lot to do with me. I instantly became an eager pupil, and have never since regretted it. He taught me the benefits that could be reaped from nature's own foods in the form of vitamins, how B complex and C could alleviate stress, how vitamin E would increase my endurance and stamina, and how B12 could eliminate fatigue. After embarking on the most elementary vitamin regimens I was not only convinced. I was converted.
Suddenly nutrition became the most important thing in my life. I read every book I could find on the subject, clipped articles and tracked down their sources, dug out my pharmacy school texts and discovered the amazingly close relationship that did indeed exist between biochemistry and nutrition. I attended any health lecture I could. In fact, it was at one such lecture that I learned of the RNA-DNA nucleic complex and its age-reversing properties. (I have been taking RNA-DNA supplements since then, as well as SOD-superoxide dismutase. Today, because of these, most people guess me to be five to ten years younger than I am.) I was excited about each new discovery in the field, and it showed.
A whole new world had opened up for me and I wanted others to share it. My partner understood completely. We began giving out samples of B complex and B12 tablets to patrons, suggesting they try decreasing their dependency on tranquilizers, pep pills, and sedatives with the vitamins and vitamin-rich foods.
The results were remarkable! People kept coming back to tell us how much better and more energetic they felt. Instead of the negativity and resignation that often accompanies drug therapies, we received overwhelming positiveness. I saw a woman who had spent nearly all her young adult life on Librium, running from doctor to therapist and back again, become a healthy, happy, drug-free human being; a sixty-year-old architect, on the brink of retirement because of ill health, regain his well-being and accept a commission for what is now one of the foremost office buildings in Los Angeles; a middle-aged pill-dependent actor kick his habit and land a sought-after supporting role in a TV series that still nets him handsome residuals.
By 1970 I was totally committed to nutrition and preventive medicine. Seeing the paucity of knowledge in the area, I went into partnership with another pharmacist for the prime purpose of making natural vitamins and accurate nutrition information available to the public.
Today, as a nutritionist, lecturer, and author, I'm still excited about that world that opened up to me over thirty years ago-a world that continues to grow with new discoveries daily-and I'm eager to share it.
2. What Vitamins Are
We must obtain vitamins from natural foods, or dietary supplements in order to sustain life.
When I mention the word vitamin, most people think pill. Thinking pill brings to mind confusing images of medicine and drugs. Though vitamins can and certainly often do the work of both medicine and drugs, they are neither.
Quite simply, vitamins are organic substances necessary for life. Vitamins are essential to the normal functioning of our bodies and, save for a few exceptions, cannot be manufactured or synthesized internally. Necessary for our growth vitality, and general well-being, they are found in minute quantities in all natural food. We must obtain vitamins from these foods or from dietary supplements.
What you have to keep in mind is that supplements which are available in tablet, capsule, liquid, powder, spray patch, and injection forms, are still just food substances anid, ulnless synthetic, are also derived from living plants and animals.
It is impossible to sustain life without all the essential vitamins.
3. What Vitanmins Are Not
Vitamins are neither pep pills nor substitutes for food. A lot of people think vitamins can replace food. They cannot. In fact, vitamins cannot be assimilated without ingesting food. There are a lot of erroneous beliefs about vitamins, and I hope this book can clear up most of them.
Vitamins are not pep pills and have no caloric or energy value of their own.
Vitamins are not substitutes for protein or for any other nutrients, such as minerals, fats, carbohydrates, water-or even for each other!
Vitamins themselves are not the components of our body structures.
You cannot take vitamins, stop eating, and expect to be healthy.
4. How They Work
If you think of the body as an automobile's combustion engine and vitamins as spark plugs, you have a fairly good idea of how these amazing minute food substances work for us.
Vitamins regulate our metabolism through enzyme systems. A single deficiency can endanger the whole body.
Vitamins are components of our enzyme systems which, acting like spark plugs, energize and regulate our metabolism, keeping us tuned up and functioning at high performance.
Compared with our intake of other nutrients like proteins, fats, and carbohydrates, our vitamin intake (even on some megadose regimens) is minuscule. But a deficiency in even one vitamin can endanger the whole human body.
5. Should You Take Supplements?
"Everyone who has in the past eaten sugar, white flour, or canned food has some deficiency disease...."
Since vitamins occur in an organic material, some containing more of one vitamin than another and in greater or lesser amounts, you could say that if you ate the "right" foods in a well-balanced diet, you would get all the vitamins you need. And you would probably be right. The problem is, very few of us are able to arrange this mythical diet. Accwding to Dr. Daniel T. Quigley, author of The National Malnutrition, "Everyone who has in the past eaten processed sugar, white flour, or canned food has some deficiency disease, the extent of the disease depending on the percentage of such deficient food in the diet." Because most restaurants tend to reheat food or keep it warm under heat lamps, if you frequently eat out you run the risk of vitamin A, B1, and C deficiencies. (And if you're a woman between the ages of 13 and 40, this sort of work-saving dining is likely to cost you invaluable calcium and iron.)
Most of the foods we eat have been processed and depleted in nutrients. Take breads and cereals, for example. Practically any of them you find in today's supermarkets are high in nothing but carbohydrates. "But they are enriched!" you say. It's written right on the label: Enriched
Enriched? Enrichment means replacing nutrients in foods that once contained them but because of heat, storage, and so forth no longer do. Foods, therefore, are "enriched" to the levels found in the natural product before processing. Unfortunately, standards of enrichment leave much to be desired nutritionally. For example, the standard of enrichment for white flour is to replace the twenty-two natural nutrients that are removed with three B vitamins, vitamin D, calcium, and iron salts. Now really, for the staff of life, that seems a pretty flimsy stick.
I think you can see why my feeling about taking supplements is clear.
6. What Are Nutrients?
They're more than vitamins, though people often think they are the same thing.
Six important nutrients
Carbohydrates, proteins (which are made up of amino acids), fats, minerals, vitamins, and water are all nutrients-absorbable components of foods-and necessary for good health. Nutrients are necessary for energy, organ function, food utilization, and cell growth.
7. The Difference Between Micronutrients and Macronutrients
Micronutrients, like vitamins and minerals, do not themselves provide energy. The macronutrients-carbohydrates, fat, and protein-do that, but only when there are sufficient micronutrients to release them.
With nutrients, less is often the same as more.
The amount of micronutrients and macronutrients you need for proper health is vastly different-but each is important. (See section 72 for The Protein-Amino Acid Connection.)
8. How Nutrients Get to Work
The body simplifies nutrients in order to utilize them.
Nutrients basically work through digestion. Digestion is a process of continuous chemical simplification of materials that enter the body through the mouth. Materials are split by enzymatic action into smaller and simpler chemical fragments, which can then be absorbed through walls of the digestive tract-an open-ended muscular tube, more than thirty feet long, which passes through the body-and finally enter the bloodstream.
9. Understanding Your Digestive System
Knowing how your digestive system works will clear up, right at the start, some of the more common confusions about how, when, and where nutrients operate.
Mouth and Esophagus
Digestion begins in the mouth with the grinding of food and a mixture of saliva An enzyme called ptyalin in the saliva already begins to split starches into simple sugars. The food is then forced to the back of the mouth and into the esophagus, or gullet. Here is where peristalsis begins. This is a kneading "milking" constriction and relaxation of muscles that propels material through the digestive system. To prevent backflow of materials, and to time the release of proper enzymes-since one enzyme cannot do another enzyme's work-the digestive tract is equipped with valves at important junctions.
The tiny valve at the end of your esophagus opens long enough for chewed-up particles to enter the stomach. Occasionally, especially after eating, this valve relaxes-which is what enables you to belch. But a relaxed valve can also allow the acid from your stomach to be pushed back up into the esophagus, causing what's known as gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) better known to those who experience it as heartburn (See section 228.)
This is the biggest bulge in the digestive tract, as most of us are well aware. But it is located higher than you might think, lying mainly behind the lower ribs, not under the navel, and it does not occupy the belly. It is a flexible bag enclosed by restless muscles, constantly changing form.
Virtually nothing is absorbed through the stomach walls except alcohol.
An ordinary meal leaves the stomach in three to five hours. Watery substances, such as soup, leave the stomach quite rapidly. Fats remain considerably longer. An ordinary meal of carbohydrates, proteins, and fats is emptied from the average stomach in three to five hours. Stomach glands and specialized cells produce mucus, enzymes, hydrochloric acid, and a factor that enables vitamin B12 to be dissolved through intestinal walls into the circulation. A normal stomach is definitely on the acid side, and gastric juice, the stomach's special blend, consists of many substances:
Pepsin: The predominant stomach enzyme, a potent digester of meats and other proteins. It is active only in an acid medium.
Rennin: Curdles milk.
HCI (Hydrochloric Acid): Produced by stomach cells and creates an acidic state.
The stomach is not absolutely indispensable to digestion. Most of the process of digestion occurs beyond it.
Virtually all absorption of nutrients occurs in the small intestine.
Twenty-two feet long, here is where digestion is completed and virtually all absorption of nutrients occurs. It has an alkaline environment, brought about by highly alkaline bile, pancreatic juice, and secretions of the intestinal walls. The alkaline enviromnent is necessary for the most important work of digestion and absorption. The duodenum, which begins at the stomach outlet, is the first part of the small intestine. This joins with the jejunun (about ten feet long), which joins with the ileum (ten to twelve feet long). When semi-liquid contents of the small intestine are moved along by peristaltic action we often say we hear our stomach "talking." Actually our stomach lies above these rumblings (called borborygmi), but even with the truth known it's doubtful the phrase will change.
Large Intestine (Colon)
It takes twelve to fourteen hours for contents to make the circuit of the large intestine.
Any material leaving the ileum and entering the cecum (where the small and large intestine join) is quite watery. Backflow is prevented at this junction by a muscular valve.
Very little is absorbed from the large intestine except water.
The colon is primarily a storage and dehydrating organ. Substances entering in a liquid state become semisolid as water is absorbed. It takes twelve to fourteen hours for contents to make the circuit of the intestine.
The colon, in contrast to a germ-free stomach, is lavishly populated with bacteria, normal intestinal flora. A large part of the feces is composed of bacteria, along with indigestible material, chiefly cellulose, and substances eliminated from the blood and shed from the intestinal walls.
The main storage organ for fat-soluble vitamins.
The liver is the largest solid organ of the body and weighs about four pounds. It is an incomparable chemical plant. It can modify almost any chemical structure. It is a powerful detoxifying organ, breaking down a variety of toxic molecules and rendering them harmless. It is also a blood reservoir and a storage organ for vitamins such as A and D and for digested carbohydrate (glycogen), which is released to sustain blood sugar levels. It manufactures enzymes, cholesterol, proteins, vitamin A (from carotene), and blood coagulation factors.
One of the prime functions of the liver is to produce bile.
Excerpted from Earl Mindell's Vitamin Bible for Your Kids by Earl Mindell Copyright © 1982 by Earl Mindell. Excerpted by permission.
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