Vitamins, minerals, herbs and nutritional supplements
benefits of taking natural health supplements
It's very important that you understand
the difference of each health supplement because they provide different
health benefits and some should not be taken in conjunction with one or
more of the others. Some are quite safe for most people, while others
may interact with prescribed or over-the-counter drugs and even some
foods and should be avoided at all costs. It doesn't mean that because
something is herbal or natural that it is 100% safe for everyone,
because it's not.
Most of us don't even come close to
meeting minimum standards for daily vitamin and mineral intakes.
often make food choices that are nutritionally poor, eating french fries
rather than broccoli as vegetables, or drinking soft drink instead of milk
or water. Even
with the best nutritional planning, it still may be difficult to meet
minimum standards for all nutrients.
In Canada, manufacturers of drugs and
products which receive a DIN (drug identification number) are very
restricted as to the claims they can make. However, in the US, there
are few restrictions.
American law states that all the claims must be
"truthful and not misleading" - but manufacturers do not have to submit
any data in advance of making a claim, but they should always have such
evidence on hand. American labels contain a disclaimer, a statement
that claims "have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug
Administration" to satisfy the minimum requirements.
an essential role in regulating cell functions and the normal metabolic
functioning throughout the body. Insufficient intake of certain
vitamins can lead to vitamin-deficiency diseases. Evidence is
accumulating as more studies and research are performed that certain
vitamins are antioxidants and may help protect tissues from cell damage
and may possibly help prevent a number of degenerative diseases.
With a few exceptions (vitamins D and K)
the body cannot manufacture vitamins on its own, so they must be
ingested in food or nutritional supplements.
There are 13 known vitamins, and are
categorized as either fat-soluble (vitamins A, D, E and K), or
water-soluble (eight B vitamins and vitamin C). The distinction is
important because the body stores fat-soluble vitamins for relatively
long periods of time (months or even years); water-soluble vitamins
(except for vitamin B12) remain in the body for a short time and must be
replenished more frequently.
For more information on Vitamins, please
refer to the Vitamins
Minerals are present in the body in
small amounts. All together, minerals add up to only 4% of the body
weight, yet minerals, which are found in the earth's
crust as well as many foods, are essential for a wide range of vital
processes, from basic bone formation to the normal functioning of the
heart and digestive system. As with vitamins, we must replenish our
mineral supply through food or with supplements.
The body contains more than 60
different minerals, but only 22 are considered essential. Of these,
seven, including calcium, chlorine, magnesium, phosphorus, potassium,
sodium, and sulfur - are usually designated "macrominerals", or "major
minerals". The other 15 minerals are termed "trace minerals" or
"microminerals" because the amount that the body requires each day for
good health is tiny.
Herbs are not needed in your body for
your body to function normally. Herbal supplements are used to
good health or treat minor health problems.
Herbal remedies are prepared from
plants, often using the leaves, stems, roots, and/or bark, as well as
the buds and flowers. Known for centuries as medicinal agents, many
plant parts can be used in their natural form, or they can be refined
into tablets, capsules, powders, tinctures, and other formulations to
provide health benefits.
Many herbs have several active
compounds that interact with one another to produce a therapeutic
Of the hundreds of remedies that are
surfacing in the current rebirth of herbal medicines, the majority are
being used to treat mild health problems. Increasingly, herbal
supplements are being used to attain or maintain good health - for
example to enhance the immune system, to help maintain low blood
cholesterol levels, or to safeguard against fatigue. Many herbs also
serve as aphrodisiacs and/or to treat a temporary lack of sexual desire,
diminished sex drive or loss of libido in both men and women.
These health nutrients include a
diverse group of products, such as fish oils, and are food substances
that scientists have concluded possess disease-fighting potential. Some
nutritional supplements are illegal in Canada, such as DHEA (steroid
hormone) which is a controlled substance (it is illegal to import or
possess DHEA in Canada), while others, such as melatonin, are allowed to
be imported as a 3-month supply. Depending on the country in which you
reside and regulation from the government on health supplements, your
nutritional supplement access may be restricted.
The health benefits of amino acids have
been known to scientists for years. Amino acids are building blocks for
proteins, and may play a role in strengthening the immune system and in
other health promoting activities. Amino acids are available from all
foods, especially legumes, dairy products, meats, fish, and poultry.
The over-the-counter sale of single
amino acids is not permitted in Canada; some are available by
Multivitamin and mineral formulas are
not new products. Many herbs have been combined with others to enhance
their benefits. The most straightforward combination are herbs with
similar effects, such as valerian and chamomile, both acting as
sedatives. Others include herbs that address different symptoms of an
ailment, such as a cold remedy that has one ingredient for congestion
and another for sore throat.
Some of these combinations can promote
good health and may even save you money. You may also find that you
need to take less pills to get the same benefits. These combinations
cost less than buying each supplement separately, are more convenient to
take than individual supplements, and you get the same benefits.
However, you need to be careful and
read the labels closely. Some of these combinations contain such small
quantities of certain ingredients that they can't have any therapeutic
effects. They are there simply to promote the product. It really pays
to check the label to determine the amount of each ingredient.