Vitamins and why we need them
There is a lot of controversy over whether we need to supplement vitamins in our diet.
Some say we do, others say we don't, indeed it is often said "I don't believe there are any benefits in taking vitamins".
We have to approach this dilemma from a logical point of view. For instance, because the ageing body doesn't extract nutrients from food as well as it used to, this can lead to vitamin, mineral and other nutrient deficiencies.
This is a very debatable subject and there are some who will disagree with this statement, regarding it as a myth. But there are other points to consider.
The myth theory might work if everything was equal, but it is not.
It relies on the theory that an older digestion is as efficient as a younger digestion.....how can it be?......nothing else in the body is as efficient.
The theory that all food is equal (in nutritional value).......how can this be?.....it is known that food quality degrades with age, and quality and nutrient value depends on soil / climatic conditions.
Then there's the theory that we all digest food with equal efficiency. This is not possible because the human organism is not duplicated, and allergies, food intolerances and genetic influences are not taken into account.
Also not taken into account are the fluctuating demands for vitamins that can occur in some instances.
A good example is vitamin B1. At times of great stress or alcohol consumption, this vitamin can become depleted quite rapidly leading to a deficiency with all the symptoms that are associated with its loss. As B1 is not stored in the body, there are no reserves to call on when demands are high so we must rely on what is available in our diet to meet these demands.
Another example is tobacco use which causes the loss of vitamin C.
It is clear from this approach to the dilemma that we cannot guarantee that we will get all the vitamins we need from our diet alone. We have to look at our own needs. If we look and feel healthy with no emotional problems, then more than likely we don't need to supplement vitamins at all. On the other hand if we do have emotional or physical issues, it could be very beneficial to supplement our diets with the vitamins we need.
If you are suffering from emotional or physical problems, they may be relieved by supplementing vitamins, minerals and other supplements. However, you should never neglect finding the root cause of your problems. You will find a lot of help in rooting out various health and emotional issues throughout this site.
Vitamins - what they do and their deficiency symptoms
Vitamin B1 (Thiamine) RDA 1.5mg.
B1 is involved in carbohydrate metabolism, nervous system function, cardiovascular and arterial health. It promotes a good mental attitude, is a mild diuretic, aids digestion, muscle and heart function, acts as a coenzyme in converting glucose into energy in muscles and the nervous system, improves mental ability, protects against the damage induced from alcohol, smoking and pollution, promotes optimism, helps overcome stress, anxiety, depression and poor memory.
B1 is also involved in amino acid synthesis, healthy nerve conduction and helps to reduce levels of pyruvate and lactate (by-products of carbohydrate, sugar and fructose metabolism) which if left unchecked can result in high lactic acid, anxiety, panic attacks, lethargy, hypoglycaemia, mental confusion, nervous system tension, irritability and aching muscles.
Thiamine seems to increase monoamines such as serotonin, dopamine, norepinephrine and epinephrine by inhibiting the enzyme monoamine oxidase which breaks down used amines in the liver, intestines, and brain.It has been found that B1 deficiency results in a reduction of acetylcholine levels in the brain.
Symptoms associated with vitamin B1 deficiency
Poor circulation with cold hands and feet - edema (fluid retention) - furrowed tongue - underactive thyroid - fatigue - depression - insomnia - anxiety - acidosis - over-sensitivity to pain and noise - nausea - poor memory - apathy - debility - weight loss - muscles weak and painful - burning feet - gastrointestinal disturbances - fast pulse and breathlessness on exertion - slow pulse at rest - enlarged and weak heart - mental illness - diabetes - hypoglycaemia - allergies.Severe deficiency is known as beriberi.
Best food sources
Brewer's yeast - brown rice - wheat germ - nuts - oatflakes - liver.
Vitamin B2 (Riboflavin) RDA 1.7mg.
Riboflavin or vitamin B2 is an essential nutrient in human nutrition and plays a key role in the production of energy. B2 is needed to process amino acids and fats. it activates vitamin B6 and folic acid and helps to convert carbohydrates into the fuel the body runs on. Riboflavin is also important for the transformation of vitamin B6 and folic acid into their respective, active forms and for the conversion of tryptophan into niacin. Riboflavin is involved in energy production as part of the electron transport chain that produces cellular energy.
Vitamin B2 helps prevent and is used to treat migraine headaches, cataracts, rheumatoid arthritis and a number of skin disorders such as acne, dermatitis and eczema. In the treatment of anaemia, adding vitamin B2 to iron supplements has shown to increase its effectiveness. Vital to maintaining a proper metabolism, riboflavin also helps the immune system by reinforcing antibody reserves, the body's first line of defence against infection.
Along with iron, riboflavin is essential for producing the red blood cells that carry oxygen throughout the body. Riboflavin protects the nervous system. It may therefore have a role to play in treating nervous system conditions such as numbness and tingling, Alzheimer's disease, epilepsy, multiple sclerosis and even anxiety, stress and fatigue. Carpal tunnel syndrome may benefit from a treatment programme including this vitamin when combined with vitamin B6. The body needs vitamin B2 for reproduction and it also enhances the immune system's ability to fight disease.Note that supplements of B2 make the urine bright yellow and this is harmless.
Symptoms associated with vitamin B2 deficiency
Eye problems (sensitive, itching, burning, bloodshot, blurred, cataracts) - skin oily and itching - eczema especially around nose, forehead, ears, scrotum and vagina - red patches on face (rosacea) - acne - bedsores - hair dull and oily - dandruff - split nails - sore tongue - cracks on lips and corners of mouth - allergies - reduced neurotransmitters - anaemia - arthritis and diabetes - dermatitis - dizziness - hair loss - insomnia - light sensitivity - poor digestion. Retarded growth and slow mental responses have also been reported. Burning feet can also be indicative of a shortage.
Riboflavin deficiency also leads to the malfunctioning of the adrenal glands.
Milk - liver - brewer's yeast - cheese - eggs - meats.
Vitamin B3 (Niacin and Nicotinic Acid) RDA 15-20mg.
Niacin is involved in a wide range of biological processes including the production of energy, the synthesis of fatty acids, cholesterol and steroids.
Vitamin B3 is important for proper blood circulation and the healthy functioning of the nervous system. It maintains the normal functions of the gastro-intestinal tract and is essential for the proper metabolism of proteins and carbohydrates as well as helping to maintain a healthy skin. This vitamin is also essential for synthesis of the sex hormones, namely oestrogen, progesterone and testosterone as well as cortisone thyroxine and insulin, and maintains mental and emotional wellbeing. B3 also uses up methyl groups.
It has been used in diabetes treatment and may help prevent type 1 diabetes mellitus. It may also have anticarcinogenic, antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties.
Niacin causes vasodilation of the blood vessels resulting in the so called niacin flush. It is prescribed to dilate blood vessels, to decrease blood pressure and reduce cholesterol. This effect may help to identify low or high histamine types ie; a reasonable flush at 50mg may indicate a normal histamine response, very little or no flush at this dose might indicate low histamine status.
A flush at 25mg or less may indicate elevated histamine levels. Although helpful, this method may not be entirely accurate but may be more conclusive when considered alongside other indicators such as the ability to achieve orgasm.
The non-acid nicotinamide or niacinamide does not have these effects. Nicotinamide is the biologically active form of niacin.
Both nicotinamide and nicotinic acid are available as supplements.
Niacin is believed to cause improvements in energy production due to its role as a precursor of NAD (nicotinamide adenosine dinucleotide), an important molecule involved in energy metabolism. It plays an important role in the synthesis of components necessary for the production of ATP.Niacin in high amounts may cause depression.
Symptoms associated with vitamin B3 deficiency
A mild deficiency of vitamin B3 or niacin may result in; a coated tongue - sores in the mouth - irritability - nervousness - skin lesions - diarrhoea - forgetfulness - insomnia - chronic headaches - digestive disorders - anaemia.
Severe, prolonged deficiency may cause; weakness of the nerves - mental disturbances - depression - mental dullness and disorientation - rough skin - sore red eyes - cracked skin on areas exposed to the sun - inflammation of the mouth and tongue - abdominal pain and swelling - diarrhoea - anxiety or dementia - schizophrenia - hyperthyroidism - crying spells - suspicion - loss of humour - dermatitis.Best food sources
Brewer's yeast - eggs - fish - wheat germ - nuts - meats.
Vitamin B5 (Pantothenic Acid) RDA 10 mg.
B5 is at the centre of energy metabolism, fat and antibody synthesis. It is also involved in the metabolism of carbohydrates, lipids and protein, the synthesis of fatty acids, cholesterol, citrate and the neurotransmitter acetylcholine. In the brain, B5 is involved in many important reactions.
Pantothenic acid is involved in the synthesis of sterol hormones in the adrenal cortex, and also stimulates the adrenal glands to increase the production of adrenal hormones.Symptoms associated with vitamin B5 deficiency
Fatigue - headache - insomnia - depression - nausea - abdominal cramps - occasional vomiting - burning feet - muscle cramps - impaired co-ordination - greying hair - arthritis - asthma - adrenal weakness - irritability - low blood sugar levels - allergies.Best food sources
Brewer's yeast - organ meats - nuts - wheat germ - cod's roe.
Vitamin B6 (Pyridoxine) RDA 1.6 mg.
Vitamin B6 is a water-soluble vitamin and participates in the metabolism of protein, carbohydrates, lipids, and in amino acid metabolism. The conversion of methionine to cysteine is dependent on vitamin B6. Pyridoxal phosphate is the active form and is a cofactor in many reactions of amino acid metabolism. B6 in its relationship with sodium and potassium, helps to regulate the body's water balance.
One of the functions of vitamin B6 is called transsulfuration. This is the process whereby one sulfur molecule can replace another. When pyridoxine is deficient in the body, methionine metabolism is altered. Vitamin B6 is needed in the body to manufacture its own vitamin B3, and B2 is needed to activate pyridoxine.
One preliminary study has found that this vitamin may increase dream vividness or the ability to recall dreams, probably due to the role this vitamin plays in the conversion of tryptophan to serotonin.
Nutritional supplementation with high doses of vitamin B6 and magnesium is claimed to alleviate the symptoms of autism and is one of the most popular complimentary and alternative medicine choices for this condition. Some studies suggest that the B6 - magnesium combination can also help attention deficit disorder, noting improvements in hyperactivity, hyperemotivity, attention span and aggressive behaviour.
This nutrient is essential for the creation of neurotransmitters. Studies have found a strong link between vitamin B6 deficiency and depression. Although vitamin B6 is not synthesised in the brain, it readily enters the cerebral spinal fluid and brain from the plasma. Once within the cerebral spinal fluid B6 can enter brain cells. It is relatively easy to deplete brain B6.
As excess Vitamin B6 is excreted in about 8 hours, mild deficiencies are common. Excretion can be increased by alcohol, smoking and certain drugs, including diuretics. Lack of Vitamin B6 will also reduce Vitamin B12 absorption and utilisation and may contribute to B12 deficiency. Mercury has the biochemical capability of reducing the availability of, or inhibiting the function of vitamin B6. There is a positive correlation between brain mercury levels and the numbers and surfaces of amalgam fillings.Symptoms associated with vitamin B6 deficiency
Weakness - depression - mental confusion - irritability and nervousness - mood swings - insomnia - poor co-ordination in walking - hyperactivity - poor immune function - declining blood lymphocytes and white blood cells - anaemia - skin lesions - dry skin - oily skin - rashes - scaly skin around scalp, eyebrows and behind ear - PMS/PMT - morning sickness - fluid retention - nervous system disorders - muscle spasms - sleeplessness - inability to recall dreams - muscle weakness - autism - lack of gastric acid - nail ridges along length - inability to tan in sunlight - allergies - poor appetite - hormone imbalances.Best food sources
Brewer's yeast - wheat germ - liver - meats - bananas - oatflakes.
Vitamin B12 RDA 1.5-5ug.
The absorption of vitamin B12 requires a highly specialised process which tends to become less effective with age. It is common for doctors to give elderly people B12 injections.
B12 functions primarily as an essential coenzyme for the normal metabolism of all cells, including those of the gastrointestinal tract, bone marrow and nervous tissue. It is also a coenzyme in the synthesis of red blood cells and in the maintenance of nerve cells, and is involved with protein, lipid and nucleic acid synthesis. It is also considered necessary for growth. B12, in combination with folic acid, is essential for the body to synthesise haemoglobin.
The coenzyme of vitamin B12 is a carrier of methyl groups and hydrogen and is necessary for protein, fat and carbohydrate metabolism. Coenzyme B12, methylcobalamin, functions as one of the methyl group donors to form methionine from homocysteine, and methionine and B12 co-ordinate in the regulation of folate metabolism. Mercury from dental fillings binds to methionine and cysteine and has the potential to decrease the availability of these amino acids and affect the metabolism of both vitamin B12 and folate.
Methionine is needed in choline synthesis. A choline deficiency that causes fatty liver can be prevented by vitamin B12 or the other methyl donors, betaine, methionine and folic acid. Impaired fatty acid synthesis in vitamin B12 deficiency can result in impairment of brain and nerve tissue. In vitamin B12 deficiency the insulation around nerve cells, the myelin sheath, is misformed contributing to faulty nerve transmission. B12 may also play an important role in immune regulation and support.
Known causes of B12 malabsorption are a lack of intrinsic factor and hydrochloric acid in the stomach. Iron deficiency interferes with absorption of B12. The use of oral contraceptives can destroy vitamin B12, and Iron deficiency can interfere with its absorption. Lactose intolerance may increase B12 needs.
The two most common forms of supplemental B12 are Methylcobalamin and Cyanocobalamin. Methylcobalamin is reported to be the more active form of B12 due to its contribution as a methyl-group donor.Symptoms associated with vitamin B12 deficiency
Pernicious anaemia - chronic fatigue - debility - poor circulation - numbness and stiffness - red sore tongue - emotional disturbances - mental illness - liver and nervous system diseases - nerve inflammations - weakness - depression - allergies - pale skin - mouth ulcers - apathy - shortness of breath - palpitations - mood changes - poor concentration - impotence - nervousness - poor memory - elevated homocysteine levels.Best food sources
Liver - kidney - eggs - fatty fish - cheese - pork - beef.
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