The role of various vitamins and minerals for proper bodily function
Eating a variety of whole, organic foods such as fresh fruits, vegetables, herbs, whole grains, nuts and seeds as well as minimally processed cuts of lean meat and fish will increase your intake of vitamins, minerals and antioxidants, however, due to the declining nutritional content of our soils, additional supplementation of quality vitamins and minerals are needed.
It should be noted that vitamins absorb better when taken with fat, so taking them with a larger meal is the best time unless stated otherwise. When purchasing supplements look for brands that are made from raw food sources instead of the synthetically made varieties.
Vitamins – are substances that are used in growth, metabolism and nerve function. They are broken down into 2 subgroups- fat-soluble and water-soluble. B-complex and vitamin C are water-soluble vitamins, so they are not stored by the body as they dissolve in water and are excreted in the urine.
There are 13 known essential vitamins:
Vitamin A- strengthens the immune system against infections, plays an essential role in vision and aids the body to see in dim light, helps with normal bone growth, and keeps the skin and the linings of the body healthy. Vitamin A may also help to reduce the risk of cancer as it is an antioxidant, consequently it protects the body from free radicals that may harm the body. You can consume vitamin A from egg yolks, liver, fruits and vegetables.
Thiamin: Vitamin B1– helps to release energy from foods, promotes normal appetite and is important for proper nervous system function. Food Sources for Thiamin include peas, pork, liver, and legumes.
Riboflavin Vitamin B2– helps to release energy from foods, promotes good vision and healthy skin. It also helps to convert the amino acid tryptophan (which makes up protein) into niacin. B2 can be of help to those suffering from migraines and those with methylation issues. Food sources include liver, eggs, dark green vegetables, legumes, and whole grain products.
Niacin Vitamin B3– is involved in energy production, normal enzyme function, digestion, promoting normal appetite, healthy skin, and nerves. Sources include liver, fish, poultry, meat, and whole grain products. Never take slow release or no flush niacin as it can be toxic to the liver. Taking vitamin b3 may reduce the risk of skin cancer
Vitamin B6: Pyridoxine, Pyridoxal, Pyridoxamine– aids in protein metabolism and red blood cell formation. It is also involved in the body’s production of chemicals such as insulin and hemoglobin. Sources include pork, meats, whole grains, legumes, and green and leafy vegetables.
Folate: aids in protein metabolism, promoting red blood cell formation, and lowering the risk for neural tube birth defects. Folate may also play a role in controlling homocysteine levels, thus reducing the risk for coronary heart disease. Food sources include liver, kidney, dark green leafy vegetables, meats, fish, whole grains, legumes, and citrus fruits. If purchasing as a supplement, look for the methylated version which does not require a conversion in order to be absorbed.
Vitamin B12: – aids in the building of genetic materials, production of normal red blood cells, and maintenance of the nervous system. B12- deficiency can manifest itself as depression, mania, chronic fatigue, poor sleep, or lack of concentration. Vitamin B12 increases our energy levels as it is responsible in turning carbohydrates, proteins and fats into energy.If you have nerve pain, pins/needles, restless legs, numbness, multiple sclerosis, diabetic neuropathy, Parkinson’s or even Lou Gehrig’s disease then you may benefit from supplementation. Most diabetes medications, antivirals, anti-convulsants, and antibiotics can deplete the body of B12 . Deficiency is also linked to vegetarian/ vegan diets because of the lack of foods that naturally contain B12 (such as milk, eggs and liver), additionally, as we age, changes in stomach acid, imbalanced gut flora, or having a poor functioning intestinal lining may also cause deficiency issues.
Biotin- helps release energy from carbohydrates and aids in the metabolism of fats, proteins and carbohydrates from food. Sources of Biotin include liver, kidney, egg yolk, milk, most fresh vegetables, yeast breads and whole grains. Biotin is also made by intestinal bacteria.
Pantothenic Acid– is involved in energy production, and aids in the formation of hormones and the metabolism of fats, proteins, and carbohydrates from food. Sources include liver, kidney, meats, egg yolk, whole grains and legumes. Pantothenic Acid is also made by intestinal bacteria.
Vitamin C – is an essential nutrient which must be supplied by the foods that we eat. It is responsible for wound healing and immune system function. Vitamin C is destroyed when foods are cooked, so eating plenty of raw foods high that are high in vitamin C is important. The body requires more vitamin C when you are ill or under stress, and since it is water soluble it is not stored in the body.
Vitamin D3 – helps with cancer prevention, heart problems, multiple sclerosis, diabetes and immune function disorders. Vitamin D is manufactured naturally by the body with at least 20 minutes of sun exposure per day (without the use of sunscreens as they reduce the ability of the body to produce vitamin D by 95% and most contain harmful chemicals which actually promote skin cancer). You are considered to be deficient if your blood level is below 45. Unfortunately the average blood level of vitamin D for Caucasians in the US is 25 ng/ml (nanograms per milliliter) for Caucasians, and 16 ng/dl for African Americans. The minimum level of vitamin D should be 50 ng/ml and requires about 3000-4000 IU a day of vitamin D3 — which is 10 times the current health recommendations. “If our whole population achieved a minimum level of 45 ng/ml, we would have 400,000 fewer premature deaths per year.” says Dr Mark Hyman. There would be a reduction of cancer by 35 percent, type 2 diabetes by 33 percent and all causes of mortality by seven percent. Having your blood levels tested is recommended especially when supplementation is being utilized to be sure that you are reaching optimum levels without overdosing on vitamin D. You can request a blood test from your primary care physician. Foods that contain some level of vitamin D are: salmon, herring, sardines, catfish, mackerel, mushrooms, egg yolks and cod liver oil, but you cannot reach optimal levels without sunshine exposure or supplementation.
Vitamin E– helps to protect cell membranes and is involved in blood clotting – specifically vitamin E helps prevent blood clots. A deficiency in vitamin E has been linked to nervous, vascular and reproductive system problems. Vitamin E has many biological functions, with the antioxidant function being the most important and/or best known. Other functions include enzymatic activities, gene expression and neurological function(s). It’s also been suggested that the most important function of vitamin E is in cell signaling. Vitamin E can be obtained through eating wheat germ, sunflower seeds, hazelnuts, pistachios, prawns, squash, spinach, avocados, organic tofu. When supplementing be sure to avoid synthetic vitamin E
Vitamin K2 – has been found beneficial in the fight against non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, liver, colon, stomach, prostate, nasopharynx, and oral cancers, and some studies have even suggested vitamin K may be used therapeutically in the treatment of patients with lung cancer, liver cancer, and leukemia. Dietary sources are: kale, spinach, collard greens, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, alfalfa, spinach, cabbage, cauliflower, tomatoes, peas, carrots, potatoes, yogurt, lean meat, egg yolks, kefir, acidophilus milk, cheese and cheese curds. If taking as a supplement you should look for a high-quality K2 supplement, and since it is fat soluble you should take them with a high fat meal. Recent evidence suggests that vitamin K is an important adjunct to vitamin D, so if you are deficient in one, then neither will work optimally in your body. If you have experienced stroke, cardiac arrest, or are prone to blood clotting, you should not take vitamin K2 without first consulting your physician. Sources and more info on vitamin K
The Essential Minerals
There are several opinions about how many minerals are essential, some say 14, some say 16. However, everyone is in agreement that we all need small amounts of about 25-30 minerals to maintain normal body function and good health.
It should be noted that only foods that are grown in soil that contains minerals can transfer the minerals into the plants. Currently soils contain 86% less minerals than they did 100 years ago due to synthetic fertilizers, pesticides and mono-culture (based on a study done in 1992). So eating a variety of foods and produce grown from organic, mineral-rich soils, cooking with sea salt (which contain 84 trace minerals), supplementing with kelp (which contains minerals from the sea) and taking a quality mineral supplement are some ways to increase the mineral content in your diet.
Role of Minerals in the Body
- Minerals act as co-factors for enzyme reactions, and enzymes don’t work without minerals.
- They maintain the pH balance within the body
- They facilitate the transfer of nutrients across cell membranes
- They maintain proper nerve conduction
- They help to contract and relax muscles.
- They help to regulate our bodies tissue growth.
- Minerals provide structural and functional support for the body.
There are two categories of minerals essential within the body, macro-minerals & micro-minerals. .
Macro-minerals- are needed in the diet in amounts of 100 milligrams or more each day (such as potassium, phosphorus, calcium, magnesium, sulfur, and sodium). Macro minerals are present in virtually all cells of the body, maintaining general homeostasis and required for normal functioning.
Micro-minerals (trace minerals)- are micro-nutrients that are chemical elements and are needed by the human body in very small quantities (such as iron, chromium, copper, manganese, zinc, and selenium).
Calcium- helps to control the pace of your heart, allows nutrients to move in and out of the cells in the body, and plays a crucial role in nerve and muscle function. Calcium is even known to lower cholesterol levels and blood pressure. Most calcium supplements are made from either calcium carbonate or calcium citrate, both of which are difficult for the body to utilize and carry side effects with excessive use. Look instead for calcium supplements made from plants or algae which contain the co-factors needed for strong bones such as vitamin D3, k-2 and magnesium.
Magnesium- plays an important role in cell health and is an active component in more than 300 biochemical reactions within the body. Health benefits of magnesium include: maintaining normal muscle and nerve function, keeping the heart rhythm steady, supports a healthy immune system, and helps to keep your bones strong. Magnesium also helps regulate blood sugar levels, promotes normal blood pressure, and is known to be involved in energy metabolism and protein synthesis. There is also interest in the role that magnesium plays in preventing and managing hypertension, cardiovascular disease, diabetes and cancer development. Food sources of magnesium include green vegetables (such as spinach, beans, and peas), nuts and seeds, and whole unrefined grains.
- Optimal levels of magnesium can be achieved through supplementation, or with transdermal application by taking a bath in 2 cups of Epson salts or by applying Magnesium Oil to the skin. Taking oral magnesium may temporarily alkalize the stomach acids so it is best to take it on an empty stomach so that you don’t interrupt the digestion process, close to bedtime is actually preferable as it will help you to relax and sleep well. Acceptable forms of magnesium supplements include Magnesium Glycinate or Magnesium L-Threonate.
Selenium – is protective against many types of cancers, promotes apoptosis (cancer cell death), is a powerful antioxidant and improves quality of life during aggressive cancer therapies such as chemotherapy and radiation. According to P.D. Whanger (professor of agricultural chemistry), nearly 200 animal studies have been conducted to evaluate the effects of super-nutritional levels of selenium on experimental carcinogenesis using chemical, viral, and transplantable tumor models. Two thirds of the studies found that high levels of selenium reduced the development of tumors at least moderately (14-35% compared to controls) and, in most cases, significantly (by more than 35%) (Whanger 1998). Selenium supplementation of 200 mcg daily can reduce a man’s risk of developing prostate cancer by 69%. Additionally a woman taking a 200 mcg daily dose of selenium would reduce her risk of developing breast cancer by 82%. Furthermore, selenium has been shown to virtually eliminate the cancer threat posed by the BRCA1 mutation. According to the following study: “The frequency of chromosome breaks was greatly reduced following 1 to 3 months of oral selenium supplementation (mean, 0.63 breaks per cell versus 0.40; P < 10(-10)). The mean level of chromosome breaks in carriers following supplementation was similar to that of the noncarrier controls (0.40 versus 0.39). Read this study here: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/?term=15894690.
- Selenium-rich foods include: Brazil nuts, mushrooms, sunflower seeds, salmon, shellfish, brown rice, and eggs, or consider taking a food based Selenium Supplement.
- Selenium for cancer
Sulfur- without sulfur, the body cannot properly detoxify substances including pharmaceuticals, environmental toxins and heavy metals. There is an association between improper detoxification, particularly of the liver, and illnesses including Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, autism, arthritis and multiple chemical sensitivity. Dietary sulfur is critical because the body cannot produce it. Food which contain a high amount of sulfur include organically grown cabbage, onions, garlic, Brussels sprouts, eggs, legumes and whole grains.
Zinc -a meta-analysis found that zinc reduces symptoms of the common cold, especially if taken in the first 24 hours of your illness. This mineral also supports eye function, protects the prostate, improves sex drive and is said to help with acne. Oysters, meats, almonds, Brazil nuts, avocados, raspberries and seeds such as pumpkin, chia and hemp seeds are rich in zinc. There have been a number of studies looking at the possible roles of zinc in the body, with some researchers focusing on zinc levels of people with cancer and other diseases. A few studies have found that zinc levels in serum and/or inside white blood cells were often lower in patients with head and neck cancer or in those diagnosed with childhood leukemias. Low zinc levels were also linked to having larger tumors, more advanced stages of disease, and a greater number of unplanned hospitalizations. Zinc also has the benefit of displacing copper which tumors can use to establish a blood supply so they can proliferate and spread. The recommended dose is 20-50 mg per day of zinc acetate or gluconate.
- The use of zinc in patients with acute lymphocytic leukemia
- Modern Illnesses are linked to zinc deficiency
- How does your multivitamin rank against others on the market
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Angiogenesis – is a process in which new blood vessels are formed and is responsible for much of the growth and spread of cancer. Once a tumor grows to a certain size, the tumor sends chemical signals out that stimulate the growth of new blood vessels that carry the blood to it. If you can stop the tumor from receiving a blood supply, then the tumor can not grow and spread. The following supplements can interrupt the growth process of tumors and promote cancer cell death.
Natural killer cells –are lymphocytes of the immune system that control several types of tumors and microbial infections by limiting their spread and subsequent tissue damage. Supplements that support the function of Natural Killer Cells include: