GUEST BLOG: 50+ Health & Wealth Section features a weekly Guest Blog from area health professionals
By Dr. Kenneth Solomon of Solomon Chiropractic and Nutrition
We are inundated with marketing cajoling us to purchase vitamins. Vitamins for our general health. Vitamins to lose weight. Vitamins to strengthen, to sleep, to digest, and to fight off disease.
It seems as if we should be taking dose upon dose all through the day just to make it to the next day.
Pills, tablets, capsules, caplets, gels, liquids and powders. Something for everyone for everything.
It’s a multi-billion dollar industry.
This industry is completely unregulated. There are no watch dogs. There are no rules of labeling and no product standardization.
Anything can be in that bottle and it doesn’t have to be what is represented on the outside.
In 2015, New York State conducted an investigation. Herbal products from GNC, Target, Walmart and Walgreens were tested. The herbs examined were echinacea, ginseng, St. Johns wort, garlic, ginkgo, biloba and saw palmetto.
All commonly used by the population.
DNA testing was used to see what these supplements actually contain.
Only 21% of the products were said to actually have the DNA of the herb that was labeled on the bottle. According to the study, Walmart was worst with only 4%.
Cease and desist orders were given. Not because the herbs were not what were claimed (there is no regulation for that) but because many contained unlabeled ingredients that could cause severe allergic reactions.
It is not just herbs.
Did you know that B vitamins are commonly synthesized from coal tar?
Most Vitamin C (sold as ascorbic acid) is synthesized and is only the smallest covering of the C-complex vitamin.
Most calcium supplements are basically rock salt and are difficult to digest and absorb. Most fish oils are just sterilized liquids with no active ingredients. The list goes on, and on.
Should we even bother with vitamins? Can they actually do anything.
My answer concerning the need for supplementation is an unequivocal and resounding YES. We must supplement.
Our food and food choices are not rich in the nutrients we need, so dietary supplementation is a must. These supplements must be monitored throughout our lives as different nutrients are needed at different stages.
A sixty year old needs different supplementation than a twelve year old.
This article will be concerning itself with necessary supplementation for those over fifty. The best way to decide what you need is in conjunction with your healthcare provider, not with a supermarket retailer. Your health provider should have access to products that are sold only through licensed professionals. These products are always well tested, standardized and in the potency you will need.
A $10 bottle of fish oil from the supermarket is not useful.
Let’s start with Vitamin D. Egg yolks and fatty fish are wonderful food sources but do not provide enough of the nutrient. Only the rays of the sun interacting in our skin can produce enough Vitamin D. About 80% of the population has low Vitamin D blood levels. That includes Florida and California. We just don’t go outside (without sun tan lotion) often enough. We must supplement.
Everyone knows that Vitamin D helps with the transport and absorption of calcium. Vitamin D does so much more. Risks for cancers of the colon, breast, prostate and esophagus can be reduced 30-50%. Vitamin D is a precursor to nearly every hormone in the body and is intimately involved in nearly all bodily reactions. You cannot eat enough. At any age. You must supplement. There are no “natural” sources to make it from. It must be synthesized. And it must be in the form of Vitamin D3. Take a lot. In the winter, 10,000 units a day reduces the effect of Seasonal Affective Disorder. During the rest of the year 3,000-4,000 units a day is a good maintenance dose. Each of us have individual needs. Consult with your health professional.
There is a normal reduction of stomach acid as we age. It becomes harder to digest certain foods and make use of their nutrients. This is true of B-complex vitamins, especially B12. the B-complex has also been torn from our foods through processing so supplementation is necessary. Nervous system functioning, blood formation, heart health, cognition and more are all dependent on adequate B-complex nutrients. Notice that I didn’t say B2, B3, B6, etc. I said B-complex.
Try to supplement with nutrients as they occur in nature. Not in mega doses. No coal tar. There are many B-complex supplements made from food sources. Quality companies will monitor the important chemicals and source only from nutrient dense ingredients which they monitor through the entire process. Buyer beware. Your health professional will be familiar with these companies.
Are you taking your Omega 3’s? You should be. These provide essential fatty acids. Essential means that we cannot make them, we must eat them. Fish, butter, coconut oil, olive oil and flaxseed oil are wonderful food sources. We can’t eat enough for our over fifty needs so we must supplement. Protection against osteoporosis, rheumatoid arthritis and cancer. A reduced risk of dementia. Improvement of heart health. A reduction of all inflammatory processes. Omega 3’s come in the form of oils. DHA (Docosahexaenoic Acid), EPA (Eicosapentaenoic Acid) and ALA (Alpha-linoleic Acid) are the important ingredients. Often, inexpensive products are merely sterilized liquids with no active ingredients that are either not replaced or replaced with less potent incorrect ratio synthetics. The ingredient ratios are important for the Omega 3’s actions on different body systems. For example DHA is absorbed less effectively by the brain after the age of 60 often leading to the start of cognitive reduction. Some oils contain more DHA and should be used accordingly. Calamari, krill, tuna and sesame are some of the most common supplement sources. Do you know which companies make the best supplemental oils. Do you know which ratios are best for you? Ask your health professional.
After five decades of hard work and many insults our guts have taken a beating. Less than optimal diets, medications and normal aging changes have significantly changed the healthy bacterial content of our intestines. The microbiome. This is a word you will hear often in the near future. It is as individual as our fingerprints. It must stay balanced and flourishing. Fermented foods such as sauerkraut, kimchi, kombucha and pickles are great sources for a healthy bacterial garden. We do not eat enough of these. Did you notice I did not mention yoghurt or dairy (raw dairy is an exception) as they actually contribute to gut imbalance.
We must supplement with pre and probiotics. A balanced microbiome reduces belly fat and bloating, improves bowel function, stabilizes hormones, upgrades our immune system and much more. Probiotics come in liquid or pills. They should contain several of the known bacterial strains that comprise our normal gut flora. In the counts of millions or more of each strain. Prebiotics (think tilling and fertilizing your garden) contain nutrients that prepare the gut environment for optimal growing conditions. They can be included with the probiotic or taken separately as a pill or as a powder in a shake. Find some quality supplements and rotate them every three months or so. This can be a complicated process. Do you know the best bacteria or doses? Consult with your health professional.
The previous supplements are a daily necessity. There are many others. Some of these you may need for your particular health needs. Milk thistle helps with liver health and function. Curcumin (turmeric) is a powerful anti-inflammatory (think pain reduction), anti-tumor and anti-depressant. Vitamin E (complex) is a powerful antioxidant and is important in heart and prostate health. Coenzyme Q10 is a must for anyone taking cholesterol lowering drugs (they deplete the body of CoQ10). This directly affects your energy metabolism and cognition.
So, supplement. Use food based supplementation. Do not believe retail product marketing. Know the standards of the company that makes your products. Find a health practitioner who is knowledgeable in nutrition and have a consultation. Stay healthy!
I encourage conversation. I have been a practicing Chiropractor and Nutritionist since 1981.