V is for Vitamins

Supplements by Laurie Buchanan

Supplements by Laurie Buchanan

No matter how well we eat, there are usually some nutritional gaps in our diet. Multivitamins and minerals are an easy and convenient way to help fill those gaps and insure that our bodies get all of the nutritional support they need every day.

There are 13 vitamins classified as either water soluble (C and B-complex) or fat soluble (A, D, E and K) each having a key role to play in our bodies.

Water Soluble Vitamins: Stored in the body for a brief period of time, water soluble vitamins are then excreted by the kidneys. The one exception is vitamin B12, which is stored in the liver. Water soluble vitamins need to be taken daily.

Fat Soluble Vitamin: Together with fat from the intestine, these vitamins are absorbed into the circulation. Any disease or disorder that affects the absorption of fat, such as celiac disease, can lead to a deficiency of these vitamins. Once absorbed into the circulation these vitamins are carried to the liver where they’re stored.

In addition to vitamins, our bodies need several minerals for the proper makeup of bone and blood, and for maintenance of normal cell function. These are divided into 2 groups:

Major minerals: phosphorous, calcium, sodium, potassium, chlorine, sulfur, and magnesium.

Trace minerals: iron, iodine, cobalt (from vitamin B12), chromium, selenium, copper, fluorine, manganese, zinc, and molybdenum.

Below I’ve provided a brief thumbnail sketch of some of key vitamins and minerals. It doesn’t include healthy oils (i.e., fish, garlic, flaxseed) or herbal supplements (i.e., milk thistle, ginkgo biloba, ginseng, echinacea).

Vitamin A – Vitamin A prevents eye problems, promotes a healthy immune system, is essential for the growth and development of cells, and keeps skin healthy.

Vitamin B-Complex – It’s my perspective that B vitamins should be taken as a complex, a combination of B vitamins that are essential for quality longevity, heart health, and aiding the body during times of stress. Here is a quick look at the individual B’s:

          B-1 (also known as thiamin) helps the body to convert carbohydrates into energy and is necessary for the proper function of the heart, muscles, and nervous system.

          B-2 (also known as riboflavin) is essential for turning carbohydrates into energy and producing red blood cells. It’s also important for vision.

          B-3 (also known as niacin) helps the body convert food into energy. It helps maintain healthy skin and is important for nerve function.

          B-6 is important for normal brain and nerve function. It also helps the body break down proteins and make red blood cells.

          B-9 (also known as folic acid) helps the body make red blood cells, and is needed to make DNA.

          B-12 helps to make red blood cells, and is important for nerve cell function.

Vitamin C is needed to form collagen, a tissue that helps to hold cells together. It’s essential for healthy bones, teeth, gums, and blood vessels. It helps the body to absorb iron and calcium, aids in wound healing, and contributes to brain function.

Calcium – Essential for teeth and building strong bones. Adequate calcium in a healthy diet may reduce the risk of osteoporosis.

Vitamin D Promotes the strength of the immune system, supports bone and joint health, and enhances calcium absorption. Vitamin D is unique in that the body is able to produce it when ultraviolet rays, specifically UVB, penetrate the skin. When these ultra violet rays come into contact with a compound in the skin called 7-dehydrocholesterol (a cholesterol precursor), this compound is converted to 1,25-dihydroxyvitamin D3 (vitamin D3), the active form of vitamin D.

Vitamin E – is an antioxidant that helps protect cells from damage. It’s also important for the health of red blood cells, maintenance of a healthy heart, lungs, prostate, and enhances digestive tract function.

Folic Acid – aids in the prevention of birth defects when it is taken prior to conception. Given its potential to protect the health of newborns, healthcare professionals strongly advocate that women begin taken folic acid supplements three months prior to the time they plan to conceive.

Iron – helps red blood cells carry oxygen to all parts of the body. Symptoms of iron-deficiency anemia include weakness and fatigue, lightheadedness, and shortness of breath.

Vitamin K – is necessary for blood clotting.

Magnesium – helps muscles and nerves to function, steadies the heart rhythm, and keeps bones strong. It also helps the body create energy and make proteins.

Phosphorous – helps form healthy bones and teeth. It also helps the body make energy. Every cell in the body needs phosphorus to function normally.

Potassium – helps with muscle and nervous system function. It also helps the body maintain the balance of water in the blood and body tissues.

Zinc – An infection fighting mineral, zinc is important for normal growth, strong immunity, and wound healing.

Not all vitamins and minerals are created equal, be sure to read the label. Naturally, you should work with your healthcare provider to find out which supplements you could benefit from, and how much is right for you taking into consideration your gender, age, weight, activity level, health concerns, and any medications you may be taking.

Listen with your heart,

Laurie Buchanan

Whatever you are not changing, you are choosing.”
               – Laurie Buchanan


© 2010 Laurie Buchanan – All Rights Reserved

24 thoughts on “V is for Vitamins

    • Kim – I can well imgine that your labs do this type of testing among the wide brushstroke of other things they do. And as you well know, that testing goes a long way to show that not all vitamins are created equal 🙂

      • Yes
        It is very interesting that opened an area in our main lab and all 10 brand new large instuments do all day are vitamin D testing, which is very popular right now.

  1. Hi, Laurie — excellent summary of our essential vitamins and minerals. Last year, my physician discovered that my vitamin D level was 7% of what it should be and put me on a supplement of 2000 IU. It took 9 months before the level came back up to normal. We usually don’t have any warning signs of a vitamin D deficiency until we break our leg getting out of bed and that is why osteoporosis is called a “silent” disease. Thank you for this reminder.

    • Barbara – I’m responding to your comment from Encinitas, California. I arrived yesterday to be with my dad for a while. Vitamin D (especially D3) is a biggie when it comes to our disposition. A lack in D’s can make us feel downright melancholy.

      • You know what, Laurie, I absolutely believe that. My doctor discovered the Vitamin D deficiency at the same time that I was seeing her to help me with my migraines. Then, I read a study about Vitamin D deficiency in elderly people complaining of headaches. When their Vitamin D level came up to normal, the headaches stopped — note that this was a very small study. I know I felt much better after taking Vitamin D for six months physically and emotionally. Over the winter, I am boosting my intake to 3,000 a day.

        Glad you made it safely to California. Enjoy your holiday.

  2. Thanks for the reminder. The challenge for me is getting into a routine and remembering to take my vitamins. Now is the perfect time for today.

    • Lisa – You’re oh-so-right! It’s taking them (as opposed to having them in the cupboard) that actually does the trick. Once we make it a habit though, it becomes second nature – like brushing and flossing teeth.

  3. Although I have sporadic and often unbalanced eating habits, I am religious in taking my multi-vitamin at night. Cooking for one is challenge at anytime, complete and nutritionally balanced meals are a circus act at best, a good reason not to eat at their worst. My multi-vitmins are my finger in the dike.

    • Sandi – I love what you said, “My multi-vitamins are my finger in the dike.” That’s a great way to put it! And I agree that cooking for one is a challenge. Len (the cook in our home) recently returned from being gone for almost two weeks and it was definitely not fun cooking for one. It’s difficult to pare things back and cook for a single portion.

  4. Hi Laurie

    So many interesting and related things in this post.

    Exactly what is essential for life?

    As a biochemist by training, I have a certain level of familiarity with the notion of vitamins – certain key things that must be present for us to function optimally.

    Until very recently, I was under the impression that the body could handle most things thrown at it.

    A little over 7 months ago, being told I had inoperable cancer and a life expectancy of a 50% chance of making 5 months, started me on some serious investigation.

    Understanding the results of those investigation requires understanding several related ideas.

    There is no such thing as a poison – without referring to the concentration of that thing. We have evolved and adapted to survive with almost everything in our environment, but only within a certain range of concentrations.

    There are a few dozen of these things that have gotten the name “vitamins”, and are listed here.
    These are special in the sense that are bodies are not capable of generating them from other materials in our diet.

    This inability to synthesize these compounds is one extreme end of a spectrum.
    There are some 80,000 different chemicals within our bodies.
    Our bodies are capable of creating and controlling the levels most of these chemicals, within fairly broad limits, and every one of them is sensitive, to some degree, to the content of our diet.
    Vitamins, form one end of the spectrum of sensitivity, if not present in our diet, we have none of them; and there are thousands of other things in our diet and our environment that have effects on the concentrations of other things in our bodies, which in turn effects how our bodies operate at many different levels.

    For some of the vitamins in our diet, it is almost as easy to overdose on them and turn them into a poison as it is to have too little (Vitamin A {from eating livers} would be the best example).
    For others, like Vitamin C, the recommended minimum is just sufficient to prevent acute deficiency disease. Vitamin C seems to be one of those dietary elements that we can actually effectively use far above the recommended minimums – perhaps 1,000 times as much when fighting disease.

    It seems that our systems are remarkable in their ability to survive in situations that are far less than optimal, and often they do so by doing things that are not in our long term best interest (evolution is like that – we can accumulate quite a few damaging thing, provided that the impact of the damage doesn’t usually hit until we have raised our children).

    Thus it now seems to me that optimal health is so much more than simply getting the minimum amount of essential vitamins to avoid acute deficiency disease.

    It seems to me that optimal health is about reducing as many as possible of those chemicals that have known carcinogenic activity; get as wide a range as possible of as many different live nutrients as we might assume as similar to those that would have been in the diets of our hunter gatherer ancestors over the last 6 million years, keep ourselves physically active, etc.

    So yes, Vitamins are one extreme, of a vast spectrum of things essential to physical good health.

    Then there are all the ways that mental activity interacts with the physical systems within our bodies – the greatest of which is stress.

    So yep – great post, and it seems to me that our current level of understanding of what is actually going on is way less than 10% of what is available there to be known (possibly less than 1%). We are such amazingly complex entities.

    • Ted – I love your opening line, “Exactly what is essential for life?” That’s a great question! And depending on the number of people you ask, you’d probably get that many different answers. You bring up several important points, one of them being: “For some of the vitamins in our diet, it is almost as easy to overdose on them and turn them into a poison as it is to have too little.” That’s absolutely true! A person can’t just take vitamins in any amount willie-nillie. We’ve each got to do our own research and make informed choices based on our findings. And just to throw a sticky wicket into the formula, there’s tons of mixed and contradictory information out there on the who, what, where, why, and how of vitamins/minerals.

  5. Hi Laurie, supplements have been a big part of our life program for a VERY long time. I can’t imagine not having access to this knowledge and to these products….and to practioners like you who can guide us in making informed choices when we might feel overwhelmed by the sheer volume of information (and misinformation!!) that is out there. Thank you so very much!

    I’m glad that you’re able to spend some time with your Dad. We’re having a LOT of rain in the Bay area…..hopefully you’re far enough south to be missing the brunt of these storms.

    • Colleen – I’m so glad for your visit. I practically feel like your neighbor sharing the same coastline for a couple of weeks. We got a good, soaking rain fowm here, but not what I’d call a storm. My dad’s home is really close to Moonlight Beach (if you happen to know it) and it think it was tempered by that. Have a wonderful weekend!

  6. I’ve never personally taken up a sustained vitamin regimentation, always feeling that the right balanced diet would be sufficient. There are some of course who have always questioned the ultimate value of vitamin supplements, but at the very worst they can never hurt (and in all likelihood will help greatly). Clinical studies have revealed that teh absence of certain vitamins like “B” have contributed to certain diseases and illnesses, and it’s vital to be sure you are aren’t deprived, especially in the instance of dieting.

    • Sam – There are many folks who don’t take vitamin/mineral supplements because they eat a diet they feel is sufficient in providing the nutrients they need (and I applaud those folks who eat that well),; and there are many people who don’t take vitamin/mineral supplments because they feel they’re a scam. Like you said, they sure aren’t going to hurt (unless, of couse, you take too many). To conserve space, I only brought my 3-a-day multi’s with me on this trip to Encinitas, California. It may just be psychosomatic, but I FEEL a negative difference in not taking the additional supplementation that I’m used to.

  7. Pingback: Merry Christmas | Ted Howard NZ's Blog

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  9. On the topic of Vitamin D, the importance of vitamin D in the development of cancer was further confirmed by a 2009 study by Sylvia Chistakos, Ph.D., of the UMDNJ-New Jersey Medical School. Her research, published in The Journal of Biological Chemistry, showed that the active form of vitamin D induces the creation of a protein that can inhibit the growth of breast cancer cells.

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