Back to Basics- All About Vitamin K

What is Vitamin K?

Vitamin K exists in three forms; K1 is the natural form from plants that is stored in the liver, K2 is formed by intestinal bacteria, and K3 which is a water-soluble synthetic form. Vitamin K requirements are met 50:50 by diet and intestinal bacteria.

Why do we need it?

It is used in the body during the calcification process and it protects the kidneys from the formation of calcium stones. It is also used for the following:

  • Blood clotting disorders
  • Osteoporosis
  • Nausea and vomiting during pregnancy
  • Floaters in the eye
  • Fractures
  • Prevention of calcium oxalate kidney stones
  • Bruising

Where do we get it?

We can get a good intake of vitamin K from the following foods:

  • Turnip greens
  • Broccoli
  • Cabbage
  • Beef liver
  • Lettuce
  • Cheddar cheese
  • Asparagus

How do you know if you could be deficient in it?

There are some signs of vitamin K deficiency including:

  • Common signs of deficiency include:
  • Easy bleeding
  • Hemorrhage
  • Inappropriate bruising
  • Vitamin K deficiency can lead to osteoporosis, due to vitamin K’s role in calcification of bone.

Source: The Nutritional Therapy Association

Back to Basics- All About Magnesium

What is magnesium?

Magnesium is a predominantly intracellular mineral that facilitates as many as 300 enzymatic reactions. 60 percent of magnesium in the body is found in the bone, 25 percent in muscle, and the remainder in the fluids and soft tissue.

Why do we need it?

We need to have a good amount of magnesium in our bodies for a variety of reasons:

  • Structural integrity of teeth and bones
  • Regulates contractility of heart muscle
  • Relaxes smooth muscle
  • Decreases coagulation of the blood
  • Necessary for essential fatty acid metabolism
  • Essential for protein synthesis
  • Used to produce urea in the urea cycle in the liver
  • Along with vitamin B6 it is useful for prevention of kidney stones

How do we get magnesium?

There are a variety of foods that contain good amounts of magnesium. Such foods include:

  • Almonds
  • Pumpkin Seeds
  • Quinoa
  • Swiss Chard
  • Wheat germ
  • Cashews
  • Brown rice
  • Spinach
  • Kidney beans

How do we know if we are deficient in it?

Unfortunately, many of people living in the United States are deficient in magnesium. This is because we eat a lot of processed foods and the soil our crops are grown lacks the mineral. Some signs of deficiency include:

  • Muscle spasms and tightness
  • Painful menstrual cramps
  • High blood pressure and heart arrhythmias
  • Increased blood triglycerides and cholesterol
  • Nerve conduction problems

Source: The Nutritional Therapy Association

Back to Basics- All About Vitamin B1

What is vitamin B1?

Vitamin B1, also known as Thiamin, is a water-soluble vitamin found in high concentrations in the heart, kidney, liver and brain. It is absorbed rapidly in the upper and lower small intestine but is not stored in the body in any great quantity.

Why do we need it?

The main function of thiamin is to help convert carbohydrates into energy. It is also essential for nerve conduction in the body. Thiamin is essential for proper energy production in the brain.

How do we get it?

We can get a good amount of vitamin B1 from the following foods:

  • Brewer’s yeast
  • Wheat germ
  • Sunflower seeds
  • Soybeans
  • Nuts: Brazil nuts, pecans
  • Grains: Oats, millet, wheat, corn
  • Brown rice
  • Lentils

How do we know if we are deficient in it?

Common causes of thiamin deficiency include:

  • Alcohol consumption
  • High refined carbohydrate diets and excess blood sugar
  • Smoking
  • Malabsorption problems (chronic diarrhea)
  • Stress
  • Deficiency of thiamin makes it difficult for a person to digest carbohydrates.

Common signs of deficiency include:

  • Fatigue
  • Memory loss
  • Anorexia
  • Constipation
  • Depression
  • Poor coordination or confusion
  • Shortness of breath
  • Anxiety

Source: The Nutritional Therapy Association, 2010

Back to Basics- All About Vitamin B2

What is Vitamin B2?

Riboflavin is part of the vitamin B complex that is known as the “G” factor. It is soluble in alcohol, relaxes smooth muscle and acts as a vasodilator. Riboflavin is also soluble in water and is a yellow, green fluorescent compound. That is the bright orange color that is seen in the urine after taking a multiple vitamin supplements.

Why do we need it?

We need to have a good amount of vitamin B2 for a variety of reasons:

  • Acts as a cofactor in oxidation-reduction reactions involved in carbohydrate metabolism
  • Essential for cellular respiration and utilization of cellular oxygen
  • Necessary for converting Vitamin B6 into its active form
  • Important in conversion of niacin into tryptophan
  • Involved in the breakdown, utilization and metabolism of carbohydrates, fats and proteins

How do we get it?

We can get a good amount of this vitamin from the following foods:

  • Almonds
  • Yeast
  • Alfalfa
  • Wheat germ
  • Green leafy vegetables
  • Whole grains

How do we know if we are deficient in it?

Some early signs of deficiency include:

  • Cracks and sores in corner of mouth and lips
  • Red sore tongue
  • Feeling of sand or grit under eyelids
  • Burning and itching of eyes
  • Increased light sensitivity
  • Loss of visual acuity
  • Sluggishness

Deficiency can be caused by:

  • Alcoholism
  • Diabetes
  • Congestive Heart failure
  • Chronic stress

Source: The Nutritional Therapy Association

Back to Basics- All About Vitamin A

What is Vitamin A?

A fat soluble vitamin found in high sources in animal tissues—liver, organ meats, and fish liver oil. Biologically active vitamin A can take the form of retinol, retinal or retinoic acid. Carotenoids, particularly beta carotene, are a precursor for vitamin A.

Why do we need it?

It is necessary for the formation of visual purple, a substance in the eyes necessary for proper night vision. It is valuable in fighting infections—protects mucous membranes against invading bacteria. Along with zinc, vitamin A plays an important role in epithelial cell health.

Where do we get it?

  • Cod liver oil
  • Carrots
  • Parsley
  • Dandelion greens, collard greens, kale
  • Carrots
  • Bell Peppers
  • Tomatoes
  • Basil
  • Yams
  • Egg yolk
  • Whitefish

Note: Vegetables and fruits provide carotene—the vitamin A precursor. Animal products also provide vitamin A.

How do I know if I need it?

Early signs of deficiency may include night blindness, xerosis (thickening and pigmentation of conjunctiva of the eye) and hyperkeratosis folliculi (small bumps on back of the arms).

Other signs of deficiency may include:

  • Rough, dry or prematurely aged skin
  • Loss of sense of smell and appetite
  • Frequent fatigue and/or insomnia
  • Skin blemishes
  • Dry hair and brittle fingernails

Reference: The Nutritional Therapy Association, 2009

Back to Basics- All about Vitamin E

What is vitamin E?

Vitamin E is a generic term for tocopherols and tocotrienols. There are 8 tocopherols. D- alpha-tocopherol has the most biological activity. It is used to help a variety of health conditions including restless leg syndrome, the prevention of lipid peroxidation, and muscle cramps from exercise. It is also used to  help PMS, menopause, acne, cardiovascular disease, and topically for burns.

Why do we need it?

We need vitamin E for a variety of reasons. It is a fat soluble antioxidant that protects cell membranes from damage. It also protects the liver from fat soluble oxidative damage in addition to protecting nerve and muscle function. Vitamin E is also known for preventing the peroxidation of cholesterol and other lipids. It also prevents platelets from clumping together.

Where do we get it from?

Vitamin E can be obtained from a variety of food sources including:

  • Wheat germ oil
  • Sunflower seeds
  • Corn oil
  • Cod liver oil
  • Olive oil
  • Whole wheat
  • Nuts: pecans, walnuts, hazelnuts

How do I know if I need more of it?

Some of the signs of vitamin E deficiency include:

  • Dry skin
  • Easy bruising
  • Decreased clotting time
  • Fibrocystic diseases
  • Benign prostatic hypertrophy
  • Poor wound healing

Reference: The Nutritional Therapy Association (NTA)

Back to Basics- All About Vitamin B12

 What is Vitamin B12?

The two main forms of vitamin B12 are cyanocobalamin or hydroxycobalamin. It is stored in the liver and functional stores can last for up to three years. It is involved as a co-factor in the transfer of methyl groups, an essential process in the synthesis of DNA. It is also involved in carbohydrate metabolism.

How do we get it?

We can get a good amount of this vitamin from the following sources:

  • Liver
  • Fish: Sardines, herring, salmon, tuna, halibut
  • Beef
  • Cheese
  • Eggs
  • Milk

Why is it good for our Health?

Vitamin B12 helps with the following:

  • Prevention of pernicious anemia
  • Reduction of wheezing in asthmatic children
  • Reduction of sulfite sensitivity asthma
  • Anemia
  • Viral hepatitis
  • Neuropathies and neuralgias
  • Allergies
  • Acne
  • Depression

How do we know if we are deficient in it?

Signs of deficiency can include:

  • Progressive peripheral neuropathy
  • Pronounced anemia
  • Swollen, red tongue

Source: The Nutritional Therapy Association

Back to Basics- All About Vitamin B3

What is Vitamin B3? It is found in foods that contain thiamin and can be created in the body from the amino acid tryptophan. Vitamin B3 exists in three forms: Niacinamide, Nicotinic acid, and Nicotinamide. It also exists in supplemental form as niacin, niacinamide or inositol hexaniacinate. Each form has different uses.

Why do we need it? It plays an essential role as a co-enzyme in the breakdown of fats, proteins and carbohydrates into energy. It is also required for fatty acid and steroid hormone production.

How do we get it? We can get a good amount of this vitamin from the following foods:

  • Nutritional and brewer’s yeast
  • Rice bran
  • Wheat bran
  • Peanuts
  • Sesame seeds
  • Liver
  • Salmon
  • Chicken
  • Turkey

How do we know if we are deficient in it? Signs of niacin deficiency include:

  • Cracked, scaly dermatitis
  • Muscular weakness
  • Confusion, memory loss or depression
  • Loss of appetite
  • GI symptoms: indigestion, diarrhea and vomiting
  • Excess consumption of sugar can deplete niacin

Can you have too much vitamin B3? The most common side effect of niacin is the skin flushing that occurs 20-30
minutes after taking supplemental niacin. Other side effects include:

  • Gastric irritation
  • Nausea
  • Liver damage     
  • Altered glucose tolerance in diabetics

Source: The Nutritional Therapy Association