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A Total Health and Wellness Makeover with Vitamins Minerals, and Herbs
By Deanna M. Minich, Georgia Clark
Red Wheel/Weiser, LLCCopyright © 2010 Deanna M. Minich
All rights reserved.
INTRODUCTION TO DIETARY SUPPLEMENTS
Health is a state of complete physical, mental and social well-being, and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity.
WORLD HEALTH ORGANIZATION, 1948
Today, the average human body confronts an array of modern-day assaults: a nutrient-poor, calorie-rich diet; excessive alcohol consumption; little to no exercise; exposure to environmental toxins like cigarette smoke and pollution, and perhaps significant emotional turmoil, negative thinking, and stress. No wonder we often emerge from the daily battle feeling utterly fatigued, lifeless, and on the verge of breakdown. The body might respond to the injuries by putting on extra weight to protect itself. In the small sliver of time available before significant health issues and eventually a full-blown disease arise, rapid, quick-fix solutions are sought to try to "stop the bleeding."
In the midst of the whirlwind of stress on the body, the spirit attempts to make several cries to the body—"Eat more vegetables," "Get more exercise"—but is not heard. Instead, the body, like a horse with blinders on, fixates on survival in an attempt to get through another day. The spirit's continued urgent pleas to the body remain ignored. The cumulative result of these simultaneous events is a person without passion and purpose for living, who might appear to be moving very mechanically through life, without heart. For example, Jim was in this situation, with his day-to-day life saturated in one challenge after another, including struggling with his income, keeping a job in a tough economy, and tackling some persistent, deep-seated issues with his father. At times, he wanted to give up on everything. A blanket of depression covered him for several weeks. He admitted to himself that he intuitively felt that he needed to be working with plants, but he did not make the effort. When he finally gave in to volunteering at the local greenhouse, he began shifting his life gradually, yet very profoundly. He ended up coming to peace with his family issues and securing a steady position at the community college teaching botany. All of his stresses fell to the background, and he began losing weight and feeling energized.
Body and spirit desire to be unified. The ability to achieve body-spirit wellness rests in the presence of harmony in our lives—with ourselves, others, and the environment. Our highest choice is to be vibrant, healthy, inspired, and full of bountiful energy to give to the thoughts, actions, and emotions that feed our bodies and spirits in the best way. My experience and observations suggest that there are many paths to finding this freedom; one of them is through the vehicle of nourishment. It may not be everyone's path, but those of you who are drawn to using foods and dietary supplements may find it a particularly appealing approach.
As human beings, we need external substances such as food and water to keep us functioning optimally—the bare basics of calories for energy and water to keep hydrated are mere starting points. Under times of stress, when the body is running on overdrive and depleting all of its basic fuel, we may require specific nutrients over and above what we normally take in to give the cells the necessary raw materials they require to harness sufficient energy and remove accumulated waste products. Vitamin C is one of those nutrients that the body uses up quickly during bouts of stress. If we are too low on vitamin C, we leave ourselves open to infection and possibly getting a cold or the flu. On the other hand, eating more citrus fruits or taking a vitamin C supplement during these times protects us from the effects of stress.
Extra, specific supplements enable the physical body to cope with everyday events in ways it otherwise couldn't. When the physical body can flow freely and confidently with the sense of being in control of its surroundings, it has more energy to give to other, "higher" or more spiritual aspects of living. In other words, when our survival needs are taken care of, we are more likely to have the inclination to examine less tangible aspects of our lives like connecting with our life purpose.
Far more than providing just fuel for the physical body, foods and nutritional supplements feed all aspects of us—our flesh, emotions, ego, heart, voice, intuition, and spirit. They do so through their obvious physical qualities like providing calories for energy or minerals for keeping our bones strong. They also contribute in the form of their inherent nonphysical properties: how they were grown, their color and consistency, and how they were prepared and served. Take an example of a chicken egg—you can imagine that eating an egg is an efficient means to get complete protein and energy for the physical body, but its value doesn't end there. If it was produced on a farm where the farmer took good care of the chickens by letting them roam within a spacious area and fed them quality feed, this egg will impart the cumulative, positive effects of the care of the farmer and the healthy, happy life of the chicken that produced the egg. An egg from a well-cared-for chicken may even have different nutrients; it may taste better or even look more robust compared with an egg from a stressed chicken. All around, you would feel good eating it—spanning from your body to your other nonphysical layers. You might even embody the feeling of care and feel its subtle effects in your heart.
Our being, whether physical or nonphysical, collects memories of experiences, words, thoughts, emotions, and actions, which is why those seemingly subtle aspects about how the chicken egg developed are magnified within our being. Quantum physics tells us that every life form carries a vibration, an energetic signature, beyond that of its physical constituents, but definitely connected to its physical parts. In fact, the physical form may be a direct manifestation of all the indirect influences and forces that went into the making of it, just like was described with the chicken egg. It is this subtle vibration that harmonizes with the ethereal, invisible aspects of our being—our subtle, energetic anatomy.
Essentially everything we do, whether we eat certain foods like broccoli or donuts, or take fish oil supplements or eat candy, carries a vibration that will either add to or subtract from the cumulative resonance of the spirit. Eating candy may give us an initial burst of energy from the sugar, but over the long term, and with repeated use, it sets us up to be physically fatigued and drained. The reason for the eventual fatigue is that we put our hormones, especially insulin, on a rollercoaster ride every time we eat too much refined sugar in a repeated fashion. Once in awhile, our bodies may be able to accommodate a sugar rush, but with constant use, our metabolism will have a difficult time riding the waves of chaos sugar creates in the body. Because of these internal imbalances, our energy will be tied up in trying to remedy our body and bring us back into balance. It will have few resources left to invest in the more meaningful, spiritual aspects of our lives. And back we will go to moving through the motions of life rather than fueling it well so that we are glowing, radiant, and full of purpose. The bottom line is this: eat the energy that you want to become.
Dietary supplements are unique since they contain higher concentrations of nutrients that we may not normally find in foods. Ingesting them is an efficient way for getting what we need quickly, without the body having to extract the nutrient from the food matrix through the process of digestion.
Let's suppose that we need more minerals like calcium to strengthen our bones or iron for making blood. Yes, we could get these minerals by eating lots of animal foods rich in calcium and iron, but we would have to eat an awful lot of food to get the amount we need, especially if we are seriously depleted or have special needs, like someone with osteoporosis who needs a significant amount of additional calcium or an individual with anemia who needs to replenish their supply of iron. Also, digesting all that food would take a lot of energy. (Animal foods can be especially time consuming and energy intensive for the body to break down and assimilate.)
The food matrix is complex, so, along with essential minerals, we are often ingesting other nutrients from foods that can interfere with the action or digestion of these minerals. But a mineral supplement could cut right to the chase, supplying us with what we need with little to no investment on our part or without the interference of other food constituents that may get in the way.
Now imagine that the person who needs these minerals is a vegetarian. Indeed, they could eat plant foods to get what they needed, but minerals are present in the fabric of plant foods differently from that of animal foods. In plant foods, they are bound to other substances that make it difficult for them to be absorbed unless the foods are cooked well, or, as in the case of iron, have some type of acid applied to it. (For example, lemon juice liberates the iron in spinach leaves to make it available to be absorbed by the body.)
Not only is the matrix of plant foods different, but the quantity of minerals also tends to be lower in plant foods. I'm not implying that vegetarians can't be healthy, only that if we choose to limit our diet to certain foods, we have to be all the more diligent about what we are taking in. And that's why dietary supplements can be so useful. They supply what is needed in a streamlined manner—in a tablet, capsule, powder, or liquid. Using natural supplements along with a sufficient dietary regimen and a healthy lifestyle can produce a great synergy for healing.
I would like to emphasize that dietary supplements are not a quick fix for chronic, deep-rooted issues. They are also not replacements for a healthy diet. They are best used in collaboration with other approaches. Many health issues are best tackled from multiple angles, with foods and supplements not only helping to address body ailments but having an impact on the more subtle aspects of our being like emotions and feeling balanced. Other tactics, like counseling, therapy, journaling, and creative expression, may dive into the depths of the problem straight on. Employing a variety of techniques is often the most successful for healing. This book looks at the role of dietary supplements in the healing process, as one important prong of a multi-pronged approach.
TIPS ON PURCHASING AND STORING SUPPLEMENTS
In order for a dietary supplement to have the intended healing effect, you must give care to exactly what you purchase and how you store it. In addition, while you may find a wide variety of supplement products, including capsules, creams, granules, jellies, liquids, powders, and wafers, at healthfood stores, supermarkets, and pharmacies, not all of them are equal when it comes to quality. In fact, a less expensive supplement may be more costly to your health!
The contents of some supplements are also questionable: there can be discrepancies in dose, either too much or too little; and sometimes products are contaminated with substances not intended for the final product. For best results, always purchase your natural products from a reputable source, preferably a healthcare professional.
In addition, supplements are only effective to the degree their potency is preserved. Once you purchase your supplements, protect their potency by storing them in the optimal manner. Typically, although not always, the way you find supplements in the grocery store is a good indicator of how they need to be kept. For example, probiotics (healthy bacteria for the gut) are usually refrigerated at the store to keep the bacteria alive. You will want to keep them refrigerated when you get them home. B vitamins degrade rapidly in the presence of heat, light, and oxygen, so they are (or should be) kept in a cool, dark place. A food supplement like ground flaxseed meal contains fat that can go rancid if it is not sealed properly to prevent the entry of oxygen. In addition to keeping a tight seal, you might want to refrigerate it to minimize the chances of rancidity.
Guidance on how to keep the supplement is sometimes listed on its label. But if it isn't, you can ask your healthcare professional or read literature on that supplement.
On the product, you will also find an expiration date. Do not use supplements that are older than their expiration date, as you may not receive their full benefit. In some cases, they could break down into other compounds that are not necessarily good for the body. For instance, fish oils that are kept too long or are left to degrade may develop a fishy odor, which indicates that they have become rancid.
You will also have to use some common sense when it comes to evaluating the appearance of the supplement. If you are used to a supplement appearing in a certain way—let's say it's a white tablet—and then you notice that the same pills from the same bottle are starting to look a little yellow or developing small specks, that's a good indication that they have changed in some way and you should discontinue use, regardless of the expiration date.
The word macronutrients designates nutrients we need to eat in relatively large ("macro") quantities, usually in gram amounts. They include the nutrient trio: carbohydrates, fats, and proteins. There may be times we need special forms of these macronutrients, like a powdered fiber (nondigestible carbohydrate) supplement to support the movement of the gut or a fish-oil capsule to give us the right proportion of essential fats. Macronutrients are used for energy in the body as each of them supplies calories, but they are also involved in maintaining structural and physiological aspects. For example, not only are fats a rich source of energy, but their presence in the cell membrane (the outer wall of a cell) will determine how well that cell will let nutrients and waste products in and out. With a diet too low in unsaturated fats (fats that are fluid at room temperature, like vegetable oils), transport of substances in and out of the cell may be less rapid and the way the cell communicates inside its walls could dramatically change. For example, if your brain does not have sufficient levels of unsaturated fats (particularly the type referred to as "omega-3" fats), it can experience changes in how neurotransmitters flow between nerve cells. In the end, your behavior can even be affected. Insufficient unsaturated omega-3 fats have been associated with mood changes like depression.
The ratio between the three macronutrients is commonly most touted. Active debate in the nutrition community continues on the ideal proportion of carbohydrate, fat, and protein in relation to another—you might be aware of this because these ideas trickle toward consumer awareness in the form of books and radio or TV shows with experts talking about whether the 'ideal' diet should be "low-fat," "low-carbohydrate," or "high-protein," to name a few of the commonly tossed-around diet labels.
The foundation of the body—the muscle, skin, bones, and immune system—relies on the solid, durable structure of protein. Protein is a highly organized macronutrient that can be disassembled into its amino acid building blocks and used for the layers of muscle, for antibodies that protect the body from outside invaders, and for interlacing circuits of hormones and enzymes. The body would be jelly without protein. Protein allows us to have a structure and the ability to be stable, yet in motion.
There are about twenty essential amino acids that must be eaten in the diet. The body can also make a variety of (nonessential) amino acids. Various types of supplement protein powders are available: soy, whey, rice, pea, and hemp are some of the popular ones. Individuals with allergies to these sources should avoid using them. Soy and dairy are common allergens, which make rice, pea, and hemp viable alternatives. Probably the biggest users of protein powders are people who are interested in bulking up their muscle; however, these powders can be valuable to people who have difficulty keeping on weight (for example, in cancer patients or in those with eating disorders), who want a quality source of protein because they may be missing it in their diet (for example, vegans), or for aging adults when there is a decline in muscle mass. Note: Individuals with kidney disorders should consult with their healthcare professional on the amount of protein they need since too much protein can be taxing for the kidneys.
Excerpted from Quantum Supplements by Deanna M. Minich, Georgia Clark. Copyright © 2010 Deanna M. Minich. Excerpted by permission of Red Wheel/Weiser, LLC.
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