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Q. What are the different types of vitamins?
A. Vitamins are broken down into two categories, water-soluble and fat-soluble.
Water-soluble vitamins include vitamin C, and the family of B-complex vitamins: thiamin, riboflavin, niacin, B6, folic acid, biotin, pantothenic acid, and B12. They are not stored in your body for very long. Since these vitamins dissolve in water, any that is not absorbed by your body is eliminated in the urine. Because you don’t store them, you need a fresh supply every day.
Fat-soluble vitamins include A, D, E and K. Unlike water-soluble vitamins, they can be stored in the body; usually in the liver or tissues. When taken in excess for a prolonged period of time, they may build up to toxic levels. That's why it is important to use them in reasonable and not excessive quantities. The fat-soluble vitamins are best absorbed when eaten with foods containing fat.
Q. What are minerals?
A. Minerals are inorganic compounds (non carbon-containing), required by every part of your body to maintain health and prevent disease. Minerals also belong to two groups: the macro or bulk minerals and the micro or trace minerals. Macro minerals are needed in larger amounts than micro minerals. This doesn’t mean they are more or less important.
Macro minerals include calcium, chloride, magnesium, phosphorous, potassium, sodium, and sulfur.
Micro minerals include chromium, copper, iodine, iron, manganese, molybdenum, selenium, zinc, boron, cobalt, nickel, silicon, tin, and vanadium.
Minerals are stored in various parts of the body; primarily bone and muscle tissues. When taken in excess, they may build up to toxic levels.
Q. What are herbs?
A. An herb is a plant or a part of a plant that is used for its therapeutic, or health promoting value. Although there are an estimated 250,000 to 500,000 different kinds of plants on the earth, only about 5000 of these have been extensively studied for their therapeutic value. The leaf, flower, seed, root, stem, bark, fruit, or any other plant part can be used. Herbal products often contain a mixture of ingredients from a plant. They come in many different forms including, capsule, tincture, extract, oils, ointment, whole herbs, and tea.
Q. What are herbal extracts?
A. In an extract, the active ingredients in a plant or plant part are separated (extracted) and partially purified to reduce both the weight and size of the final dosage form. The specific active ingredients extracted are those that have been researched and reported, by the scientific community as providing therapeutic value.
Extracts remove all of the undesirable taste and smell associated with crude herbal preparations. They also allow the herbs to be consumed in the convenient forms of either a caplet or tablet.
Q. How do herbs differ from vitamins and minerals?
A. Our bodies require about 45 different vitamins and minerals to ensure optimal health. These nutrients must be included in a person’s daily diet to maintain health. Supplementation with a multivitamin/mineral helps to insure adequate intake of these nutrients.
Herbs are not considered essential to our health. Although they offer therapeutic value, our body does not require them for optimal health. Yet, current research indicates that herbs do play an active role in health maintenance, disease prevention, and helping to alleviate illnesses.
Q. Are natural vitamins better than synthetic vitamins?
A. With many nutrients, there’s no real difference between natural and synthetic. But, there are a few exceptions to this rule.
Research shows that the natural source of the carotenoids, including beta carotene, lutein, and lycopene, as well as vitamin E is better absorbed, more active, and stays in your system longer.
Even though the natural form is sometimes far more expensive, there’s little benefit in taking something that’s not well absorbed by your body. Where research shows a benefit from the natural, rather than synthetic form, it is best to use it.
Q. If I eat a healthy diet, do I still need supplements?
A. Yes! Our bodies need more than 45 different nutrients a day, and it’s difficult (if not impossible) to obtain all the nutrients from food alone. Part of the problem is that even the most nutrient-packed foods lose vital vitamins, minerals, and other health-promoting constituents in a variety of ways. For example, so-called "fresh" fruits and vegetables begin losing their nutrients soon after they're picked. By the time "fresh" produce reaches your home, it was shipped and stored for several days (or longer), further depleting its natural nutrient level. Cooking it, and exposing it to heat and/or water, decreases its nutrient content even more.
Other factors to consider: our food supply has become depleted of nutrients, as a result of soil erosion; we are exposed to more environmental toxins as pesticides, insecticides and other chemicals resulting in the “pollution” of our food supply; we eat a lot more processed foods, which are nutrient depleted. This all adds up to nutrient-depleted foods. That’s why supplements are a smart idea.
Q. If I plan my food intake carefully, can I get all I need from food?
A. Perhaps an example will answer this question. Let's say you wanted to try to get a daily intake of 100 I.U. of vitamin E. In order to get that amount solely from your diet, you'd need to eat:
* 2 1/2 cups of sweet potatoes
* 3 cups of spinach
* 2 ounces of nuts
* 2 tablespoons of vegetable oil
This combination would pack in 1607 calories - and that wouldn't even be your total day's intake of food. Clearly, it would be impossible to fulfill this vitamin E intake through food alone and also maintain a healthy weight!
Q. How do I decide which supplements I need?
A. You, along with your health care provider, are the best judge of what will help you optimize your health, prevent disease, and help to alleviate or even reverse any medical conditions you have. In making your decision, you'll both want to take into consideration such factors as your diet history, your (and your family's) medical history, a complete nutritional laboratory analysis, any medications you may be taking, the severity of your symptoms, and such lifestyle habits as smoking and drinking alcohol.
Q. Am I guaranteed good health if I take supplements?
A. Always keep in mind that these are supplements, not replacements for a sound diet and healthy lifestyle. Whatever supplements you decide to take should not be an excuse to eat an unhealthy diet nor stop exercising! If your goal is to live a long healthy life and prevent, or help reverse any health problems, you need a healthy foundation, a nutritious diet, regular exercise, stress management, plus supplemental support. All these factors work synergistically.
Q. Are supplements safe for everyone?
A. Yes, for most people. However, if you are currently taking medication, are ill, have a past medical history, or are pregnant or nursing, always consult with your health care professional before taking supplements.
Q. How can I tell if my supplements are working?
A. That's easy - by the way you feel! If you're taking supplements for general health and disease prevention (all other things being equal), you feel better, are more energetic, and have fewer colds… then they're working. Similarly, if you’re taking vitamin E for hot flashes and they last for a shorter period of time, are less intense, or disappear altogether, then it appears the vitamin E is working.
Remember, unlike "quick-relief" pills or powders; vitamins, minerals and herbs frequently don't work overnight. While some supplements do provide immediate relief, with others, you may have to take them up several weeks before you start noticing a positive effect.
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