Tag Archives: vitamin b

Choosing the Best Supplements: Part One

Choosing the right kind of supplement is extremely important, and yet the choice available can create lots of confusion. I am frequently asked about how to select the most suitable type of supplement. Will the supplement be absorbed properly, and is a ‘natural’ form always better than a synthetic form? Are capsules better than tablets? Which brand is best? Some simple pointers can help you to choose the right supplement for you.

Is Natural better than Synthetic?

Many people prefer to take vitamins in their natural form as they believe that nutrients derived from plants and other natural materials are more effective. Although this is not always the case, there are certainly instances where this belief holds up. Vitamin E, for example, is almost 40% more potent in its natural form that in its synthetic form. The natural form of Vitamin E is called d-alpha-tocopherol and this natural form, usually derived from wheat germ or soya oil, is undoubtedly superior.

Likewise, the natural form of Vitamin D, cholecalciferol or D3, has a more sustained effect on Vitamin D levels in the body than its synthetic counterpart Vitamin D2.

Generally, however, the natural and synthetic forms of most vitamins and minerals tend to behave in similar ways. Synthetic forms of some nutrients, such as Vitamin C, can in fact work out cheaper and can be more concentrated.

Perhaps the most important consideration is that vitamin supplements derived from natural sources may well contain as yet unknown nutrients that help increase their effectiveness. Vitamin C, for example, is more effective when taken alongside bioflavonoids, and these nutrients are almost always found together in nature. Supplement manufacturers can utilise this natural Vitamin C ‘boost’ by combining a potent synthetic Vitamin C supplement with additional bioflavonoids. By replicating this natural combination manufacturers can improve the supplement’s potency.

Improving supplement absorption

Getting the best out of your supplements also means making sure that you are taking them correctly. There are a number of lifestyle and dietary factors that can affect supplement absorption. Supplements should always be taken separately from alcohol, especially if the supplements contain magnesium or B vitamins. Alcohol lowers levels of digestive enzymes from the pancreas, meaning that supplements may not be broken down and digested (1). Alcohol also damages the cells lining the stomach and intestines, impairing absorption (2).

Cal-mag
Calcium and magnesium are better absorbed alongside proteins

As smoking influences the absorption of minerals such as calcium, it is not recommended to smoke during meal times, especially if you are taking your supplements with a meal.

Stress is another lifestyle factor that can hinder supplement absorption. As stress can effectively shut down digestion, it would be wise to try to take your supplements after a leisurely meal rather than on the run during a busy day.

To ensure maximum absorption, most vitamin and mineral supplements are best taken immediately after a meal. Calcium and magnesium are better absorbed alongside proteins. Vitamins A, E and D are all fat-soluble, and so are best taken alongside a meal containing fats or oils.

Other important factors when choosing a nutritional supplement include bioavailability, the form of delivery (tablet or capsule) and the manufacturing standards of the supplement company.

References

(1) Korsten, M.A. Alcoholism and pancreatitis: Does nutrition play a role? Alcohol Health & Research World 13(3):232-237, 1989. 

(2) Feinman, L. Absorption and utilization of nutrients in alcoholism. Alcohol Health & Research World 13(3):207-210, 1989. 

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Sun Chlorella Smoothie Recipes

Healthy eating is one of the most important parts of healthy living. We all try to eat the best quality and the freshest food that we can, but even with our best efforts, sometimes we need to adjust our diets to include supplements.

Introducing Sun Chlorella – once a secret of The Far East, chlorella is now becoming revered in The West as a natural wholefood supplement – good for maintaining optimum health. Simply, Sun Chlorella  supplies your body with some of the important nutrition that your body may be lacking.

Chlorella is rich in a variety of nutrients including:

  • Vitamin B12
  • Vitamin D
  • Vitamin A
  • Iron

Amongst many benefits, they can help to:

  • Fight fatigue/combat tiredness
  • Maintain a healthy immune system
  • Chlorella is also known to help maintain a normal colonic function

Mix up your smoothies and try blending Sun Chlorella into your favourite smoothie. Add fruits such as a kiwi or fresh mango to give sweetness or even tomato for a more savoury flavour. Just remember – all ingredients should be fresh and raw for maximum nutrients! Here are two fantastic smoothie recipes to get you started:

Savoury Smoothie Recipe No 1:

Sun Chlorella Green Smoothie
Sun Chlorella Green Savoury Smoothie

Ingredients:

300ml water, 80g cucumber, 80g spinach, 40g rocket, 15 Sun Chlorella tablets, 20–40g avocado (optional), a pinch of salt (optional), half a clove of garlic (optional), 1–2 teaspoons of lemon juice (optional).

Can also add other greens such as fennel bulb, parsley, pak choi, basil, kale, etc.

Directions:

1. Place water in blender (liquidiser)
2. Chop all ingredients
3. Add all ingredients and blend until smooth
4. Divide smoothie in to two portions (each portion is about 300mls)
5. Consume half before breakfast and second portion refrigerated or placed in a cold thermos flask to be consumed before lunch

 

Sun Chlorella Sweet Smoothie
Sun Chlorella Sweet Smoothie

Sweet Smoothie Recipe No 2:

Ingredients:

300ml water,80g cucumber, 40g spinach, 80g banana, 40–80g strawberries, 20–40g raspberries, 20–40g blueberries, 15 Sun Chlorella tablets.

Directions:

1. Place water in blender (liquidiser)
2. Chop all ingredients
3. Add all ingredients and blend until smooth
4. Consume as part of breakfast and a portion can be refrigerated or placed in a cold thermos flask to be consumed at lunch

 

References

Content, recipes & images courtesy of the team at Sun Chlorella.

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Myo-inositol: a safe and effective supplement for PCOS

Recently, there has been a lot of interest in the role of inositol in the treatment of polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS). A recent systematic review has weighed up the evidence behind the claims (1).

The systematic review looked at the clinical outcomes of myo-inositol supplementation as a treatment for PCOS. Specifically, it examined the effects of myo-inositol on ovarian function and metabolic and hormonal parameters in PCOS sufferers.

What is inositol?

Inositol
Inostiol is crucial for a whole range of processes from nerve signals to the breakdown of fats

Inositol is a substance that occurs naturally in the human body, and is also present in foods such as fruits, seeds, grains and nuts. It was once thought to be a member of the B Vitamin group, but this is not strictly true – vitamins are essential nutrients that the body cannot make on its own, whereas our body can actually synthesise inositol from glucose.

Inositol is used by the body to form signalling molecules, and so it is crucial for a whole range of processes, from nerve signals to the breakdown of fats. There are several different forms of inositol, and the two forms that are considered helpful in PCOS are myo-inositol and d-chiro-insolitol.

How is inositol helpful in PCOS?

The researchers found evidence that suggests myo-inositol is helpful in PCOS because it decreases levels of excessive androgens. The study also found evidence that the nutrient improves the ovarian response to hormones called gonadotropins, helping to achieve regular menstrual cycles and successful ovulation.

Women with PCOS often have a defect in the way that their body processes insulin. This has a knock-on effect on other hormones and proteins. Sex hormone binding globulin (SHBG) is decreased, testosterone levels are raised, and the results are problems with acne, hirsutism (excessive hair growth) and fertility.

The insulin-signalling pathway is heavily dependent on myo-inositol. Supplementing extra myo-inositol therefore appears to correct the mal-functioning insulin pathways, reducing the signs and symptoms of PCOS.

The blights of PCOS: ovulation problems, acne and hirsuitism

Other studies echo these findings. A previous randomised controlled trial investigated the effects of myo-insolitol supplements versus placebo on ovarian function (2). Ninety-two women with PCOS were given either 2g myo-inositol twice daily, or a placebo pill for 16 weeks. At the end of the study, significantly more women in the inositol group were found to have normal levels estrogen and progesterone, and experienced normal ovulation. The women in the myo-inositol also showed a significant amount of weight loss over the study period. The researchers concluded that the results indicate “a beneficial effect of myo-inositol in women with oligomenorrhea and polycystic ovaries in improving ovarian function.”

A further study investigated the benefits of myo-inositol on symptoms such as acne and excessive hair growth in women with PCOS (3). After three months of supplementation, levels of insulin, testosterone and luteinizing hormone were significantly reduced. At the six-month mark, both hirsutism and acne had also decreased. The researchers concluded that myo-inositol is a “simple and safe treatment that ameliorates the metabolic profile of patients with PCOS, reducing hirsutism and acne.”

Myo-inositol is not considered toxic even at high doses. It has been supplemented in doses up to 18g daily without significant side-effects, though digestive symptoms may be experienced at this level (4). Of course, it is not at all necessary to supplement at such as high dose for PCOS where results are seen at levels of around 2-4g daily.

I always consider the two most important questions to ask when considering supplementation to be ‘is it safe?’ and ‘is it effective?’ In light of the supporting evidence for the safety and effectiveness of this particular nutrient, I would not hesitate to use myo-inositol alongside a low G.I diet as an initial therapeutic approach to address PCOS.

References

  1. Unfer V, Carlmango G, Dante G, Facchinetti F (2012) Effects of myo-inositol in women with PCOS: a systematic review of randomized controlled trials. Gynecol Endocrinol 28(7):509-15.
  1. Gerli S, Papleo E, Ferrari A, Renzo GC (2007) Randomized, double blind placebo-controlled trial: effects of Myo-inositol on ovarian function and metabolic factors in women with PCOS. European Review for Medical and Pharmacological Sciences 11: 347-354.
  1. Zacchè MM, Caputo L, Filippis S, Zacchè G, Dindelli M, Ferrari A (2009) Efficacy of myo-inositol in the treatment of cutaneous disorders in young women with polycystic ovary syndrome. Gynecol Endocrinol 25(8):508-13.
  1. Lam S, McWilliams A, leRiche J, MacAulay C, Wattenberg L, Szabo E (2006) A Phase I Study of myo-Inositol for Lung Cancer Chemoprevention. Cancer Epidemiol Biomarkers Prev 15: 1526.
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Back to the Daily Grind. Can diet and supplements relieve the pressure?

I recently offered some nutrition tips for kids as they prepare for the new academic year. However, September is not only ‘back to school’ for kids, but it can also mean ‘back to the daily grind’ for busy parents and teachers too. The return to work after a summer break can be quite stressful for many. Fortunately a few nutritional strategies may help to cushion the blow.

A recent Health and Safety Executive report states that stress is one of the most common types of work-related illness, with teachers, healthcare workers and social workers most commonly affected (1).

There are in fact numerous nutritional strategies that can help support stressed workers. For example, choosing foods and adopting eating patterns to keep blood sugar levels stable can help to manage mood and anxiety levels. Below is a quick guide to some of the most effective nutritional strategies for dealing with work-related stress.

Healthy Snack
Healthy Snacks such as fruit and nuts can help maintain stable blood sugar levels.

Foods to include:
Including protein with each meal will go a long way towards helping your body cope with the demands of work stresses. In fact, starting your day with a protein-rich breakfast such as eggs or yoghurt can actually help control your blood sugar levels for the rest of the day, helping to keep you mood and energy levels more stable.

Keeping healthy snacks at hand – fruit, nuts or even protein shakes are easy to store at the office – will also help to manage your blood sugar levels as well as providing nutrients such as zinc and vitamin C which are in great demand at times of stress.

Finally, keep hydrated with plenty of water, herbal teas and decaffeinated teas throughout the day. Dehydration can affect mood and concentration, making it more difficult to cope with the everyday demands of the office.

Foods to avoid:
Alcohol is used by many as a stress reliever, and a couple of glasses of wine in the evening seems harmless enough after a hard day at work. Unfortunately, alcohol can in fact deplete levels of vitamins and minerals that are needed in times of stress, and over time it alters levels of stress hormones such as cortisol (2).

Caffeine is a stimulant and can cause irritability. Many office workers habitually turn to caffeine for a mid-afternoon boost when energy is flagging. Unfortunately stimulants such as caffeine place additional pressure on the adrenal glands, important bodily organs which we rely on in times of stress.

Sugar can impair the function of out ‘stress buffers’, the adrenal glands. Eating sugary foods means that the adrenals must work harder to keep your blood sugar levels stable.

Nutrients for stress: B, C and Omega-3
Nutritional therapists often recommend B Vitamins alongside Vitamin C in order to help the body to cope with stress. In fact a recent study has found that a simple B Vitamin supplement may provide welcome relief to stressed workers (3).

The study was a double-blind, placebo controlled trial. To determine whether a high dose B vitamin supplement could improve mood and psychological wellbeing linked with chronic work stress, researchers supplemented 60 men and women with a high dose B Vitamin or placebo for 12 weeks. At the end of the study, those who had taken the B Vitamins reported significantly lower levels of stress symptoms such as depressed mood, confusion and personal strain.

The B vitamins are needed in higher amounts when the body is under stress, as the adrenal glands require these nutrients to function effectively. B vitamins are also involved in the production of the neurotransmitters serotonin and acetylcholine which help to ward off feelings of anxiety.

A recent review of functional foods in the management of psychological stress concluded that the most promising nutritional intervention in relieving stress is high dose Vitamin C with omega-3 fish oils (4). Well-controlled human trials have found that high dose sustained-release vitamin C can lower the effect of stress on blood pressure and improve recovery time after stressful periods (5). Omega-3 supplementation has also been found in several human studies to lower the stress response and decrease levels of stress hormones (6,7).

Many of us have suffered with work-related stress at one time or another, and this type of ongoing stress has a serious effect on wellbeing and quality of life. Returning to long days at the office after the summer holidays can be a daunting prospect for the best of us. Choosing the correct nutrition might just help make that transition a little easier.

Written by Nadia Mason, BSc MBANT NTCC CNHC

References
1. HSE (2011) Stress and Psychological Disorders. www.hse.gov.uk/statistics/causdis/stress/index.htm

2. Badrick et al (2008) The Relationship between Alcohol Consumption and Cortisol Secretion in an Aging Cohort. J Clin Endocrinol Metab. 2008 March; 93(3): 750–757.

3. Stough C et al (2011) The effect of 90 day administration of a high dose vitamin B-complex on work stress. Hum Psychopharmacol 26:7 470-476

4.Hamer et al (2005) The role of functional foods in the psychobiology of health and disease. Nutr Res Rev 18, 77–88.

5. Brody et al (2002) A randomized controlled trial of high dose ascorbic acid for reduction of blood pressure, cortisol, and subjective responses to psychological stress. Psychopharmacology 159, 319–324.

5. Sawazaki et al (1999) The effect of docosahexaenoic acid on plasma catecholamine concentrations and glucose tolerance during long-lasting psychological stress: a double-blind placebo-controlled study. Journal of Nutritional Science and Vitaminology (Tokyo) 45, 655–665.

7. Delarue et al (2003) Fish oil prevents the adrenal activation elicited
by mental stress in healthy men. Diab & Metab 29,289–295.

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Vitamin B12 – the modern day deficiency

Simon Cowell, Katy Perry and Madonna all apparently have injections of B12, the nutrient which helps keep the body’s nerve and blood cells healthy and helps make DNA, the genetic material in all cells. Vitamin B12 also helps prevent a type of anaemia called megaloblastic anaemia that makes people tired and weak.

The total amount of vitamin B12 stored in body is about 5mg in adults with around 50 per cent of this being stored in the liver – for several years if needed.

This sounds positive – and it’s fair to say that nutritional deficiency of this vitamin should be rare. But as approximately 0.5 per cent of this is lost per day by secretions into the gut, and not all these secretions are reabsorbed, deficiency is becoming more predominant than ever.

How fast B12 levels change in the body depends on the balance between how much is obtained from the diet and the amount lost.

However the vitamin is very poorly absorbed and the rate of absorption is decreasing rapidly as our modern Western diet moves from one of fresh meats and seasonal vegetables to more processed foods, resulting in our digestive efficiency reducing.

BetterYou B12 Boost Spray
BetterYou B12 Boost Spray is an excellent supplement that increases absorption rates through the lining of the mouth

A healthy digestive system will absorb only one per cent of the B12 from our diet. However our ability to produce the acids necessary for absorption is reducing dramatically and deficiency is now being reported more and more, even amongst the most seemingly healthy. Worryingly deficiency in infants appears to be becoming even more prevalent than amongst adults.

The result is that more and more of us now require B12 supplementation.

The tissue lining of the mouth offers a strong alternative for effective absorption of our nutrients. Vitamin sprays like the BetterYou B12 Boost supplement spray is a good option.

Research carried out by Cardiff University investigating sublingual vitamin absorption found that nutrients are absorbed faster through the sub-lingual membrane – below the tongue and soft palate, and the buccal membrane – the inner lip and cheek area, than any other tissue area, other than the lungs.

Absorption rates were found to vary depending upon the type of the nutrient. B12 offers potentially better absorption rates than other nutrients, as this vitamin is water soluble, entering the membrane tissue more readily.

Written by BetterYou

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Natural solutions for more energy

Are you the type of person that jumps out of bed every morning with a smile on your face as soon as your alarm goes off, ready and waiting to face the day? Do you remain full of energy and on full pelt for the rest of the day before having a great night’s sleep every night? Or are you more likely to hit snooze on your alarm as much as possible before you absolutely have to get up? Then day-dream about your bed as your energy levels drop through the floor throughout the day?! If you are more likely to be the latter, you are most certainly not alone.

A persistent lack of energy is one of the most common complaints in both men and women across the nation. Daylight, and more importantly sunlight, has a great effect on our overall energy levels.  Historically we are used to being outside all day benefiting from the effects of sunlight. Modern living, however, results in the majority of us spending large amounts of time indoors, deprived of sunlight and this causes problems with our body’s natural rhythm and well being.

Officially summer comes to an end this weekend with clocks going back an hour. This signals the start of dull days with very limited and less intense sunlight and even less opportunity to benefit from the sun. This can bring about a reduction in energy levels for much of the population and reduced daylight can, in some cases, cause Season Affective Disorder (SAD) – sometimes known as Winter Depression. As a result many people begin to dread the winter months. There are, however, many natural ways to combat low energy and SAD. Balancing your circadian rhythm is a great way to do this.

Below we have drawn up a brief guide on how you can boost your energy levels and prevent the frequent desire for those 3pm snoozes!

Early Morning (approx 6.30am – 9am)

A healthy start to the day
A boiled egg with wholemeal toast will provide you will a slow and sustained release of energy throughout the morning. (1)

Your Internal Bodyclock is in its “awakening” mode at this stage. Your metabolism is slow and rising. Your body temperature, blood pressure and cortisol levels are all also increasing, signalling to your body to wake up. You may feel ‘groggy’ first thing and crave that morning cup of coffee or a bowl of sweet, sugary breakfast cereal. This may give you a rapid increase in energy, but it will also leave you with an energy slump once the initial effects have worn off. This is where people can fall into the habit of regular caffeine or sugary snacks in an attempt to maintain this feeling.

There are better ways to boost your energy and replenish the low blood glucose levels that have developed during sleep. Try adding a slice of lemon to hot water – this has natural sugars and also helps cleanse the digestive system (having the effect of a bit of a mini detox) ready for the day ahead. Also opt for high fibre breakfasts such as 100% pure rolled porridge oats with a handful of fruit and seeds or a boiled egg with wholemeal toast. These kinds of foods will provide you with a slow and sustained release of energy throughout the morning, keeping you full for longer and reducing those energy slumps.

Try to get out in the daylight as much as possible in the morning as this will wake your body up for the day. The winter days will prevent many people from being able to do this, therefore you may wish to try using a sunrise alarm clock, like the Lumie Bodyclock Starter in the mornings. This will stimulate your brain into waking gradually, balancing your circadian rhythm and your cortisol levels, which has the added bonus of being able to also support your immune system and stress levels.

Morning until Lunch (approx 9am – 2pm)

As your cortisol levels are still increasing you are more alert and efficient and your mental capability has reached its peak of the day. This means your concentration, memory and focus are all waiting to be utilised. So use this time to get all your lingering tasks done!

You could also try using a SAD light for 30 minutes every day for energy stimulation. The effectiveness of SAD Lights is measured in lux, which is the level of light intensity that you would normally get from the sun. A SAD light with 10,000 lux is recommended for those who want to see the most benefits.

Also avoid drinking coffee at this time as this can cause the swift rises and falls in energy levels. Instead you could try green tea, which is packed with antioxidants and contains much less caffeine per cup. Other teas are also great options such as ginger tea, which is good for digestion. Peppermint, fennel and camomile are also good options.

Females should take extra care too. A lack of energy can be due to low iron levels and coffee has been shown to reduce iron stores in the body. Make sure your levels are topped up by eating foods rich in iron such as meats, some fish and leafy greens such as spinach. Consider taking an iron supplement and remember to take this with vitamin C to help its absorption. B vitamins are also great for energy – You could try adding a multivitamin with extra B Complex, such as Viridian High 5 Multi Vitamin to your daily routine.

Another helpful tip is to try to get outside during your lunch break – the fresh air and daylight can do wonders to prevent that mid-afternoon slump. When choosing your lunch, choose slow-release carbohydrates such as brown rice or wholemeal bread rather than refined carbs such as white bread or crisps. Also ensure you have some protein in your meal too – such as lean chicken, fish, beans or pulses.

Afternoon (approx 2pm – 5pm)

Your cortisol levels start to drop which can often lead to drowsiness or that mid-afternoon slump. It’s best to avoid the temptation for biscuits or chocolate for a sugar boost at this time. If you must have a snack, try a small piece of minimum 70% quality dark chocolate or some dried fruit, nuts or seeds. Make sure you prioritise your tasks for the afternoon so you know exactly what you need to achieve before home time. That way you can go home happy and content with the day. ‘A well spent day brings happy sleep’ after all. Also taking in deep breaths is great for energy levels and can help reduce stress and aid concentration.

Lumie Bodyclock Active
The Lumie Bodyclock Active, which gradually dims helping your brain to naturally switch off

Evening (approx 5pm – 10pm)

As the evening progresses your melatonin levels start to increase (the hormone that prepares your body for sleep) and your digestion slows. Try to avoid snacking in the evening and heavy meals before bed time. This will require a lot of digestion as insulin is less effective at night. Also your digestive system will struggle to cope with excess amounts of food before bed and this can lead to weight gain as well as disruptive sleep – contributing to an imbalanced circadian rhythm. It is best to avoid all stimulants such as coffee, tea and alcohol as much as possible at this time as these can also disrupt your sleep.

A bad night’s sleep can cause low energy the following day and contribute to reduced mental performance. This can cause stress and lead to a spiral of stress and disrupted sleep which is hard to get out of. If you have trouble drifting off at night, try a sunrise alarm clock with a sunset feature like the Lumie Bodyclock Active. The light gradually dims helping your brain to naturally switch off. If a sunset feature is not for you, then try spraying lavender on your pillow or rubbing some lavender sleep therapy balm on your body to help you switch off.

In addition to these helpful tips, specific nutrients that can support energy levels are:

  • Magnesium – found in leafy green vegetables such as spinach and kale
  • Vitamin B Complex – found in brown rice and wholemeal bread. If you supplement this, it is best taken as a “complex” of B Vitamins
  • Alpha Lipoic Acid (ALA) & Acetyl-l-Carnitine (ALC) – Found in green foods such as broccoli, spinach and some red meats
  • Co-Enzyme Q10 – found in fish, organ meats such as liver and whole grains
  • Iron – found in a multitude of food sources, such as red meat, beans and pulses, leafy green vegetables, tofu and fortified breads and cereals
  • Ginkgo Biloba – a widely available supplement or combined in an energy supplement such as Femergy

Consistent poor energy levels should be treated seriously. If you think the cause of your low energy levels is more than poor diet you should always consult your GP or Natural Health Practitioner.

 

Written by Katie Guest and Lauren Foster

 

References

1.  Image courtesy of Simon Howden.

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