Potassium

Potassium is a significant body mineral, important to both cellular and electrical function.  It is one of the main blood minerals called electrolytes, which means it carries a tiny electrical charge.  Research has found that a high-sodium diet with low potassium intake influences vascular volume and tends to elevate the blood pressure.  The appropriate course is to shift to natural potassium-rich foods and away from high salt foods.  A natural diet high in fruits, vegetables, and whole grains is rich in potassium and low in sodium, helping to maintain normal blood pressure and sometimes lowering elevated blood pressure.  Most excess potassium is eliminated in the urine; some is eliminated in the sweat.  When we perspire a great deal, we should replace our fluids with orange juice or vegetable juice containing potassium.  Alcohol, coffee (and other caffeine drinks), sugar, and diuretic drugs cause potassium losses and can contribute to lowering the blood potassium.
Sources:  Potassium is found in a wide range of foods.  Many fruits and vegetables are high in potassium and low in sodium and help prevent hypertension.  Such leafy green vegetables as spinach, parsley, mustard greens, and lettuce, as well as broccoli, peas, lima beans, tomatoes, and potatoes, especially the skins, all have significant levels of potassium.  Fruits that contain this mineral include oranges and other citrus fruits, bananas, apples, avocados, raisins, and apricots, particularly dried.  Whole grains, wheat germ, seeds, and nuts are high-potassium foods.
Functions:  Along with sodium, potassium regulates the water balance and the acid-base balance in the blood and tissues.  Increasing potassium can help with lowering blood pressure.  Potassium is important for normal growth and for building muscle.
Signs of Potassium Deficiency:
  • Hypertension
  • Congestive heart failure
  • Fatigue
  • Depression and other mood changes

Aloe Vera

The aloe “cactus,” actually a desert succulent, has been touted as a “miracle plant,” and its antibiotic activity is definitely a part of its reputation.  The gel in the leaves of the aloe plant contains a fairly long list of unique substances that account for many of its healing properties.

 

Functions:

Fighting viruses is not aloe’s only antibiotic activity, however.  It is also an antibacterial and antifungal.  Aloe is a known bactericide against a dozen or so different kinds of bacteria, including the pneumonia-causing bacterium Klebsiella pneumoniae.  It has also been shown to inhibit the fungus Candida albicans, responsible for most yeast infections.

 

The common oral preparation of the aloe plant currently available is aloe vera juice, a partially refined and diluted extract of the active gel.  It is important to select a high-quality product that is as much like the inner gel of the plant as possible and that has not been subjected to high heat or unnecessary filtering during its manufacture.  Aloe also has a low risk of toxicity, enabling it to be consumed as a drink on a regular basis.

 

Many people start out with 1 ounce twice daily and increase to about 6 ounces per day.  Many users describe positive health effects from drinking aloe vera juice on this kind of routine basis.

Source: Haas, E. (2006) Staying Healthy with Nutrition: The Complete Guide to Diet &      Nutritional Medicine. New York, Ten Speed.

Vitamin A

Vitamin A has the unique distinction of being the first vitamin officially named, thereby earning it the letter A as its identifying mark.  It also has the distinction of being much more complicated that researchers originally thought in 1913, the year it was discovered.  At that time, the focus was on what we now call preformed vitamin A, or retinol.  Vitamin A is absorbed primarily from the small intestine.  Absorption of this fat-soluble vitamin is reduced with alcohol use, with vitamin E deficiency, with cortisone medication, and with excessive iron intake or the use of mineral oil, as well as with exercise.  Vitamin A is needed at a level of at least 5,000 IU a day, although this may vary due to many factors.

 

Sources:

The two forms of vitamin A come from different food sources.  Preformed A (retinol) is the main animal-source vitamin A.  It is found in highest concentrations in all kinds of liver and fish liver oil, which is a common source for supplements.  Egg yolks and milk products, such as whole milk, cream, and butter, are also good sources of vitamin A.  Provitamin A, mainly in the form of beta-carotene, is found in a wide variety of yellow-and orange-colored fruits and vegetables, as well as leafy green vegetables.

Functions:

Vitamin A performs many important functions in the human body.  The following are the most common.

  • Eyesight
  • Growth and tissue healing
  • Healthy skin
  • Antioxidation
  • Lowering cancer risk and supporting immune function
  • Regulating genetic processes

 

Signs of deficiency:

  • Night blindness
  • Dry, bumpy skin
  • Lack of luster in hair and dandruff
  • Bone softness
  • Abnormal menstruation
  • Fatigue and insomnia
  • Decrease in appetite and some loss of smell and taste
  • Lowered immune function

Source: Haas, E. (2006) Staying Healthy with Nutrition: The Complete Guide to Diet &      Nutritional Medicine. New York, Ten Speed.

Hydrochloric acid (HCl)

The parietal cells of the stomach produce HCl and secrete it primarily in response to ingested protein or fat.  Stress also may stimulate acid output.  When we eat more frequently than required by the body or over-consume fats and proteins, acid production begins to decrease.  With low stomach acid levels, there can be an increase in bacteria, yeasts, and parasites growing in the intestines.

 

Sources:

An HCl supplement may improve digestion of meals containing protein and/or fat, although not for such foods as rice and vegetables, which are largely carbohydrate and thus need less HCl for digestion.  Hydrochloric acid is available primarily as betaine hydrochloride.  Betaine may be used alone, in supplements, or along with pepsin or other digestive agents.

 

Functions:

The use of HCl support is part of the antiaging process.  The digestive tract and its function may be the single most important body component determining health and disease.

 

Signs of deficiency:

  • Poor digestion, with such symptoms as gas, bloating, and discomfort after rich meals
  • Iron deficiency anemia
  • Osteoporosis
  • General allergies
  • Food allergies including “leaky gut”
  • Decreased HCl secretion in people with eczema, psoriasis, seborrheic dermatitis, vitiligo, and tooth and periodontal disease

 

Source: Haas, E. (2006) Staying Healthy with Nutrition: The Complete Guide to Diet &      Nutritional Medicine. New York, Ten Speed.

 

B Complex Vitamins

B Complex Vitamins are all water soluble and are not stored well in the body.  Thus they are needed daily through diet or supplement to support their many functions.  These vitamins are fairly easily digested from food or supplements and then absorbed into the blood, mainly from the small intestine.  When the amount of Bs taken exceeds the body’s needs, the excess is easily excreted in the urine, giving it a dark yellow color.

 

Sources:

The richest natural source containing the largest number of B vitamins is brewer’s yeast, or nutritional yeast.  The germ and bran of cereal grains are good sources of these vitamins, as are some beans, peas, and nuts.  Milk and many leafy green vegetables may also supply small amounts of B vitamins.  Liver is an excellent source of the B complex vitamins.  Other meats, such as beef, are fairly low, except for B12.

 

Functions:

The B vitamins are catalytic spark plugs in the human body; they function as coenzymes to catalyze many biochemical reactions, such as converting carbohydrates to glucose, and they are important in fat and protein/amino acid metabolism.  The B complex vitamins are also important for the normal functioning of the nervous system and are often helpful in bringing relaxation or energy to individuals who are stressed or fatigued.

 

Signs of deficiency:

  • Fatigue
  • Irritability
  • Nervousness
  • Depression
  • Insomnia
  • Loss of appetite
  • Sore mouth or tongue

Source: Haas, E. (2006) Staying Healthy with Nutrition: The Complete Guide to Diet &      Nutritional Medicine. New York, Ten Speed.

 

CoQ10

CoQ10
Coenzyme Q is a greatly underappreciated substance that is both made by our bodies and obtained in the diet, mainly in oily fish.  CoQ is a mainstay of the energy production process in the body’s cells.  Our cells have trouble generating energy without CoQ, particularly when those cells are in organs that are highly active in terms of energy and oxygen processing.
The list of heart problems that have been helped by CoQ supplementation include angina, arrhythmias, cardiomyopathy, congestive heart failure, and mitral valve prolapse.  There is research on the use of CoQ with other chronic health problems, including cancer, diabetes, obesity, AIDS, muscular dystrophy, and infertility.   Doses for CoQ range widely, from about 30 to 100 mg per day.
Source: Haas, E. (2006) Staying Healthy with Nutrition: The Complete Guide to Diet &      Nutritional Medicine. New York, Ten Speed.

Folic Acid

 

Folic Acid is a key water-soluble B vitamin.  It received its name from the Latin word folium, meaning “foliage,” because folic acid is found in nature’s leafy green vegetables, such as spinach, kale, and beet greens.  Folic acid was discovered in 1931 as a “cure” for the anemia of pregnancy.
Sources:
The best source of folic acid is foliage, the green leafy vegetables.  These include spinach, kale, beet greens and even beets, chard, asparagus, and broccoli.  Other sources are liver, kidney, and brewer’s yeast.  Folic acid is available from fresh, unprocessed food, which is why it is so commonly deficient in our culture’s processed-food diet.
Functions:
Folic acid aids in red blood cell production by carrying the carbon molecule to the larger heme molecule, which is the iron-containing part of hemoglobin.  With B12, it assists in many amino acid conversions.  Because folic acid is important to the division of cells in the body, it is even more essential during times of growth, such as pregnancy, a period of rapid cell multiplication.
Signs of Deficiency:
  • Anemia
  • Fatigue
  • Irritability
  • Anorexia
  • Weight loss
  • Headache
  • Forgetfulness
Source: Haas, E. (2006) Staying Healthy with Nutrition: The Complete Guide to Diet &      Nutritional Medicine. New York, Ten Speed.

Biotin

Biotin

A fairly recently designated B vitamin, biotin was discovered by the deficiency symptoms created through consuming large amounts of raw eggs.  Biotin is one of the most stable of the B vitamins.

 

Sources:

Many foods contain biotin, but most have only trace amounts.  It is hard to obtain enough from diet alone.  Luckily, our friendly intestinal bacteria produce biotin.  This vitamin is also found in egg yolks, liver, brewer’s yeast, unpolished rice, peanuts, almonds, carrots, tomato, chard, onion, cabbage, and milk.

 

Functions:

The biotin coenzymes participate in the metabolism of fat.  Biotin is needed for fat production and in the synthesis of fatty acids.  These roles make biotin particularly important for formation of new tissue, especially skin tissue, because skin cells die and are replaced very rapidly.

 

Signs of deficiency:

  • Dry and  flaky skin
  • Loss of energy
  • Insomnia
  • Increases in cholesterol
  • Sensitivity to touch
  • Inflamed eyes
  • Hair loss
  • Muscle weakness and muscle cramps
  • Depression
  • Impaired fat metabolism

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Source: Haas, E. (2006) Staying Healthy with Nutrition: The Complete Guide to Diet &      Nutritional Medicine. New York, Ten Speed.