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Friday, August 3, 2012

The Search for the Perfect Vitamin

Professional supplements can be as powerful as some medications
A couple of months ago, I wrote a post on whether or not you should take nutritional supplements. Personally, I am a big believer in them. In the past, when I’d find myself in a bit of a financial crunch, the one thing I refused to give up would be my supplements. Shoes? Gone. Cosmetics? Gone. Organic chicken… (hmm…even I have my limits.) 

I still take quite a few supplements with each meal. But are all those supplements actually doing anything? Until you run some lab tests on yourself, you could be popping pills for years that you don’t need (and then you really would have expensive pee.) I’ve been there…you read something interesting about a supplement, the outcome from taking it sounds like something you’d really like to experience like shinier hair, long, strong finger nails or best of all: the promise of abundant energy. You might also take supplements be-
cause of a desire to rid yourself of certain pesky symptoms like an allergy related runny nose, cough and itchy eyes. Next thing you know, you’re adding more and more supplements to your daily regimen, trying to cover all your bases. If you really want to know what your body needs, you should have them tested by an alternative healthcare practitioner, someone who understands that just because you’re not clinically deficient in a given nutrient doesn’t mean you are getting the optimal amount of that nutrient. 

The question then becomes: which vitamins should you take and which brand? There are thousands of vitamin companies out there that claim to use only the finest, purest, raw ingredients and synergistic compositions that will turn your sex life around, get rid of that ugly belly fat, build muscle, and rid your body of myriad conditions that are really messing with your quality of life. In spite of the nearly vicious monitoring of claims made by supplement manufacturers by the FDA and the FTC, there is no end to the promises, the hype, the manipulation of scientific studies that have had their results tweaked, misinterpreted or otherwise hijacked to substantiate a manufacturer’s claim, and frankly; no end to the lies. As far as I know, there is no magic pill-for anything. The ones that do come close come along with a list of horrific side effects. 

In the June 2004 issue of O Magazine, Oprah Winfrey’s magazine, in an article titled A Dose of Reality, the author, (whose name I could not discover), reports on the TV star’s investigation of well-known vitamin supplements and how many of those manufacturers had questionable amounts of the nutrient they claimed were in their products. Evaluated by, many had nowhere near the amount claimed on the product label and many others contained substantially less than the label claim. This report really opened a lot of consumer's eyes.  Given the propensity for lies, exaggerations, and wild claims made by some supplement manufacturers, how does the average consumer know if a supplement “can be trusted” to have what they claim to have in their product? Consumer Lab is helpful but there are so many brands to research! 

There are other concerns in addition to verifying the contents and potency of a vitamin supplement. Do ingredients that sound like they belong in a chemistry lab have any place in your supplement let alone your body? Are you actually getting enough of the nutrient in that capsule you are buying to impact your health and/or quality of life? 

Professional Brands 

Since all vitamins are definitely NOT created equal, what brand(s) should you buy? While the shelves of supermarkets, Whole Foods, Trader Joe's and drug stores are packed with nutritional supplements, these are precisely the type of products you want to avoid. 

Then where should one buy their supplements? Online? Through catalogs? From multi-level marketing distributors? No, no and no. Ask your healthcare provider to recommend a professional line of supplements. Such products are tested regularly by third party labs who evaluate their products with expensive, high-tech equipment. These tend to be higher quality than almost any over-the-counter brand. Many professional lines come with something called a certificate of analysis, the documentation given by the third-party’s verification process. It assures that what a company claims is in the bottle, is actually in there and in the quantities claimed. Overall, professional brands are made with raw ingredients that are far cleaner and purer than over-the-counter brands which are often cut with talcum powder, contain fine metallic debris and/or chemical toxins, and are pressed into tablets (vs. loosely packed capsules) that many people just can’t break down, and then coated with pharmaceutical shellac (yes, that shellac.) If your practitioner does not sell them in his/her office, your local integrated pharmacy carries professional supplements. 

Brand A vs. Brand B 

If you’ve done your homework, you know that the search for the perfect vitamin must be taken a step further. Professional lines are also, not all created equal. Look for products that do not include any potentially allergenic fillers, binders or lubricants. Such as? Stearic Acid, Magnesium Stearate, Calcium Stearate, Ascorbyl Palmitate, and Hydrogenated Vegetable Oils. “These compounds enable manufacturing equipment to run more efficiently but inhibit eventual dissolution of the nutrient. Stearic acid may prevent absorption by individuals with compromised digestive systems. Magnesium stearate and stearic acid also present the problem that delivery of the active ingredient may be considerably further down the intestinal tract than the site originally intended. This may result in the nutrient being delivered away from its optimal absorption site. Not only can this impede absorption, in some cases it might be harmful to the liver.” This was reported by Thorne Research founder Al Czap in a 1999 issue of The Townsend Letter, a well-respected periodical in the natural health industry. 

My purpose for reporting on how to choose a quality nutritional supplement was twofold: to inform on the enormous difference between over-the-counter nutritional supplements vs. quality professional supplements, and to give you an idea of what supplements that most Americans, across the board, should be taking. My supplement company of choice is Thorne Research, not coincidentally. If you go to my online store, you can read a little further about why I believe so much in Thorne. 

The Basics 

I believe whole-heartedly that there are five supplements every American should take:*

1)  A Multi-vitamin and mineral complex-Our soil has been depleted of nutrients, toxins in our environment put demands on our bodies that were unheard of to our ancestors, and GMO foods and chemical additives that our bodies don’t know how to process make a multi-vitamin/mineral supplement an essential insurance policy. There are special formulas for men, pre/post menopausal women and pre-natal vitamins for pregnant women. Check out the various vitamin/mineral formulas from Thorne Research available on my website.

2)  Omega-3 Fatty Acids-Often called the silent killer, internal inflammation has been linked to diseases of the heart, lungs, stroke, cancers, diabetes, and obesity not to mention arthritis, asthma, allergies, chronic pain, fibromyalgia, and eczema. Poor diet, food sensitivities and low-grade bacterial, viral, and fungal infections in the bloodstream are some of the causes of inflammation. These and other diseases/conditions affect huge portions of the population. One of the best defenses against inflammation are Omega-3 fatty acids. Supplementing with Omega-3 flaxseed oil is one way to combat inflammation. Check out Heavenly Health’s organic flaxseed oil on the Resources page of my website. When it comes to flaxseed oil, it is important to remember that this oil is considered fragile and will quickly become rancid when exposed to oxygen. I’ve found this company to be one you can trust to provide a clean, healthy and delicious product. Another option is fish oil. There are benefits to taking both so if you like what you’ve been reading about fish oil and are interested in taking a quality fish oil supplement made from fish that are not contaminated with mercury, try Omega Plus from Thorne Research. In addition to decreasing inflammation, Omega-3 fish oil has also been strongly linked to helping battle moodiness and depression as well as increasing HDL, the "good" cholesterol. 

3)  Vitamin-D-It should come as no surprise that the majority of the American population is deficient in vitamin-D. This has been reported in the media for years now. Vitamin-D has been studied extensively in recent years and it now appears to be involved in more reactions in the body than we realized. Vitamin- D is obtained from the sun. With so many Americans spending so much time indoors (in front of computers), particularly in the Northeast and especially in the wintertime, it has become necessary for most people to supplement this important nutrient. Vitamin-D deficiency has often been linked to osteoporosis. Supplementing helps ensure that the body absorbs and retains calcium, which is critical for building strong, healthy bones. Thorne Research provides Vitamin-D in several strengths. After an initial period (approximately 3 months) of high dosing, a maintenance dose of 2,000-2,500 IU daily is commonly recommended. See your healthcare professional for more information before beginning this or any other supplement regimen. 

4)  Probiotics- Taking a probiotic is one of the best things you can do for basic foundational health. Eating a cup of sugary fruit-at-the bottom yogurt is a totally inadequate way to up your “good” bacteria. 

Antibiotics may be one of the most commonly prescribed drugs in the world and while they can kill a wide spectrum of bacteria, they can’t distinguish between what we might consider “good” bacteria that thrives in our digestive tract, from “bad” bacteria-the kind that we are taking the antibiotic to kill. This can lead to a suppressed immune response, digestive problems and other issues. I take Thorne’s FloraMend Prime Probiotic. It has a unique delivery system that keeps all the “active cultures” alive from the time they’re bottled until which time the bottle is emptied. Since these cultures don’t “die off” before the bottle is emptied as is common with so many brands, there is no need to keep the bottle refrigerated. If you’re told you have to refrigerate your bottle of probiotics, it’s likely because probiotic organisms won’t survive until the bottle is finished. 

5)  Digestive Enzymes-The older we get, the less digestive enzymes our bodies produce and therefore, the less our food gets appropriately broken down for proper absorption. It is important to make sure we are actually absorbing the nutrients from the food we’re eating or, what’s the point? There are different digestive enzymes to break down plant-based foods, protein-based foods, and fats. Thorne makes a wonderful broad-spectrum digestive enzyme complex called BioGest. I highly recommend you try it. 

With these five supplement recommendations, you will be taking care of the most basic nutritional needs for your body. Make sure you’re covered. Check out all of these products in my online store. 

*These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. This product is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease.


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