We are on the cusp of flu season yet again, and I am asked daily by my patients, “How can I stay healthy? How can I keep my kids healthy? What do I do if we get sick?”
While I have covered my suggested vitamins and supplements here in the past, I have failed to write about a very important, and often overlooked vitamin. It seems to commonly be forgotten by doctors, too. Vitamin A is a powerful -and crucial- vitamin needed for our immune systems to prevent or treat a virus.
However, Vitamin A is not to be taken lightly. Vitamin A Toxicity is a very real and scary possibility, so dosing this vitamin correctly is quite important. As it is a fat soluble vitamin, it is stored within the body and not passed like water soluble vitamins. If an individual has adequate vitamin A stores, supplementation with high doses of vitamin A may cause a temporary malfunction in the regulation of immune function. This may result to an increased susceptibility to illness. Knowing the amount of Vitamin A you are consuming is vital.
I’d like to begin with the history of Vitamin A.
Although recent research is shedding light on how important Vitamin A is in preventing and treating viruses, it has been in the spotlight for decades in the holistic world. Used to treat Measles, the Vitamin A Protocol is viewed as a staple in natural-minded practices and homes across the globe.
Dating back to 1932, research was performed using high dosing of Vitamin A on groups of people diagnosed with the measles. Within equal sized groups of 300, the control group had 26 deaths, and the vitamin-treated group had 11.
Now consider the advancements we have made through research over the last 80+ years.
A protein called STRA6 is a receptor for retinol-binding protein (RBP), which forms a complex with vitamin A. RBP’s binding to STRA6 allows the attached vitamin A to be absorbed into the cell. This is where the magic happens. These ‘A-Powered Cells’ are needed to ward off viruses and cancers. They keep your body healthy, and when a virus does take root, these cells are needed to attack it.
(Side note: You know how important Vitamin D3 is, right? Well, it cannot aid your body without some Vitamin A. They both bind to the same cells.)
In 2011, The World Health Organization stated:
Acute lower respiratory tract infections, in particular bronchiolitis and pneumonia which are the most severe forms of acute lower respiratory tract infections, are the leading cause of mortality in children under the age of five. Pneumonia alone kills 1.8 million infants and young children every year.
With further investigation, we discover that Vitamin A supplementation is associated with large reductions in mortality and morbidity with children under the age of five.
A 2002 study revealed, a dose of 200,000 IU of Vitamin A given for TWO DAYS was associated with greatly reducing the risk of overall mortality and pneumonia specific mortality in all ages, with children under the age of two being the highest benefiters.
Vitamin A and the Measles:
In the case of measles, the evidence suggests that even after the onset of infection, vitamin A supplementation can improve the course of the virus and the fatality rate.
You should always work with your doctor when changing your supplements, or plan to follow an intense, high-dosage supplement protocol.
I tend to follow the WHO recommendations, along side of what the research presents, when dosing Vitamin A. Check your multivitamin before adding any extra into your daily routine. It is not advised to take more than 25,000 IU per day, and even that should not be done more than 2 months at a time. A healthy diet already includes plenty of opportunity for natural supplementation, so proceed with caution. However, if you find that you come down the colds and sicknesses often, including a Vitamin A supplement daily will prove helpful. Most studies show that even at 5,000 IU daily, people felt benefits.
At the onset of the flu, measles, or other viruses, the current protocol I recommend is 200,000-400,000 IU per day for ONLY TWO DAYS. This is a huge difference, isn’t it? Research has been done on both of these numbers, with results showing little difference, and both being effective. I would like to take into account that each individual is different, so every treatment can be slightly different. Again, you never go beyond 400,000 IU a day, and you never follow this high-dosage for more than 2 days.
Natural Vitamin A Sources:
- beef and chicken liver
- fish oil
Bright and vibrant yellow and orange fruit as well as dark green leafy vegetables – the more intense the color the more nutrient dense the produce.
- Carrots and Beets
- Sweet Potatoes
- Kale and cabbage
- Spinach and Rapini
- Squash and pumpkin
Other Facts about Vitamin A:
- Vitamin A protects the body from free radicals, neutralizes them as well as aiding in combating oxidative stress (which is attributed to infections and cancer).
- The amount of Vitamin A stored in the body is a direct correlation between a risk of cancer development.
- If there is a drastic decline or lack of vitamin A in cells within the body there is an increased potential that such cells can become malignant.
- Vitamin A is critical for good vision
- Vitamin A plays an important role in healthy bone growth
- Vitamin A is essential for reproduction
- Vitamin A plays a role in cell division and cell growth
- Vitamin A supports skin health
Side Note: It is recommended by WHO that infants are given 50,000 IU of Vitamin A along side of vaccines to ensure their cells are not depleted of this important vitamin while vaccinated.
This article can be summed up by the following:
Yes, your body produces the digestive enzymes needed to break food down. That being said, you must ask yourself, “Am I actually eating real food?”
Let me back up for a moment and give you a bit more background information.
Our intestines receive bile and enzymes that work together to break food down to be passed from the body. These enzymes also aid in feeding the body the nutrients from the foods consumed. When everything works as it should, there is no bloating or gas, and bowel movements are regular, easy, and normal. This is typical within the few humans who truly eat a whole foods diet and lead lives unexposed to toxins and stress. As you can understand, that is a very slim margin of people, if any.
Sadly, most children and adults in our society consume processed foods, foods containing pesticides and carcinogens, toxins like dyes that are not even food, and more sugar – in too many forms to name – than could be imagined. It’s easy to find the research that links these bad habits, along side of the environmental toxins known to affect the gut, to the decrease seen in bile and pancreatic enzymes within the intestines. The body cannot properly break them down because they are not meant to be there. The bile is blocked from the intestines, preventing the enzymes to reach and aid in pushing these items from the body – or releasing the nutrients properly throughout the body. This is when constipation and mushy poop start occurring; stomach aches, bloating, gas, heartburn, nausea, discomfort, low energy, and allergy-like reactions, as well. It’s no wonder kids are mean, unfocused, and pretty cranky today. (As are most adults when you really pay attention.) Their guts need mending.
While the true answer is to heal the gut and consume 100% organic whole foods, while also leading a stress-free life outside of toxins, it might be easier said than done. I do truly encourage you to eliminate wheat (all gluten) and dairy, and consider a full elimination diet – even with your children. While doing so, digestive enzymes can still be used to aid in healing the gut.
Digestive enzyme supplementation is all the rage right now, and I am completely in favor of it being added to your vitamin shelf (It can’t go without mentioning that it needs to be a high-quality version). However, it is not a cure all, and should not be depended upon with every meal, every day. It doesn’t make eating fast food okay. The gut should be healthy, and digestive enzymes should be used when foods such as gluten and dairy are consumed to help the body digest them without triggering inflammation.
Irritation to the gut from stress, pollution, pesticides, and processed foods can cause the tiny hair-like structures along the sides of the intestines to become clogged, throwing off the balance of bacteria, stomach acid, and forcing the toxins back through the liver for detoxing. The liver can become congested and trigger a slower and thicker bile and enzyme production. With less of bile and enzymes, it becomes harder and harder for the intestines to do their job well. Taking a digestive enzyme supplies the body with the needed enzymes to break these items down.
Not only do digestive enzymes aid in the digestion process, but they also allow the body to absorb more nutrients. They break food into amino acids, fatty acids, cholesterol (the good kind), simple sugars, and nucleic acids. They also may aid in easing or eliminating chronic symptoms from digestive disorders, which are of course commonly linked to diagnoses such as Gluten Intolerance, IBS, Lactose Intolerance, ADHD, Autism, and even schizophrenia.
In a world where food is more fillers and less nutrients, and a society with sky-rocketing chronic illnesses and autoimmune diseases, a little help through enzyme supplementation provides ample benefits. Digestive enzymes will take the stress off of the stomach, pancreas, liver, gallbladder and small intestine when hard-to-digest foods are consumed, so why not add them to your health arsenal?
While you can find over 40 enzymes currently available; you want to look for a high-quality, broad-spectrum enzyme supplement. This covers the bases and works well with those wanting help in basic digestion and nutrient absorption.
It seems that there is no way to truly win with our supplements and vitamins. While this is partially true, there are options that offer great benefits. You may find brands not included on this list that work well for you, but remember to read labels and research what you are putting into your body. I am including the brands that I have found to hold the highest amount of positive, helpful and healthy ingredients.
Almost all supplements and vitamins will have some sugar, unfortunately, but if you can find zero fillers and dyes, you are winning. If a brand has consciously left these out of their product, then I would like to think that they are only using a small amount of sugar.
Klaire Labs: http://www.klaire.com/ Klaire Labs was created to provide supplement options for those with sever food allergies. All products are free of artificial flavors, preservatives, and colors. Most of the products are vegetarian; and all common allergens: wheat, corn, soy, yeast, and dairy are avoided unless otherwise specified on the label. Active ingredients used are selected based on their purity, bioavailability, documented actions, and safety characteristics. Any raw materials undergo quarantine, inspection, and evaluation before being used in products. There are small amounts of naturally-derived materials such as cellulose-based excipients, vegetable-derived magnesium stearate, L-leucine, and silicon dioxide used to encapsulate or bond the tablets. Tablets are protected with an inert, water-soluble cellulose coating. This dissolves immediately and does not interfere with active ingredients within the supplement.
Seeking Health: http://www.seekinghealth.com/ These supplements are free of fillers. Nearly all Seeking Health products are free of Casein, Corn, Dairy, Egg, Fish, Gluten, Peanuts, Shellfish, Soy, Tree Nuts, and Wheat. (Read the label to be sure) Containing ingredients that are readily absorbed by the body, Seeking Health strives to reach the foundation of your health: your gut and brain. By strengthening your foundation with a well-balanced lifestyle and proper supplementation, you are increasing your overall health and enjoyment of life.
Thorne Research: https://www.thorne.com/quality Filler and dye-free products that contain the highest quality ingredients. Non-GMO and Organic, Thorne provides FDA approved supplement options for us and our pets.
Davinci Labs: http://www.davincilabs.com/ Supplements that provide support for all areas of health, including brain and heart health, joint and muscle support, mood support, immune system support, and stress management support, along with full spectrum multivitamins and minerals to support overall good health. With close to 300 products to choose from (for us and our pets), Davinci stands by its pure and potent ingredient lists. Raw materials used in DaVinci products are as natural as possible and are guaranteed to contain no artificial flavorings, preservatives, colors, sweeteners or other foreign agents unless otherwise stated on our labels. Each lot of tablets or capsules is carefully assayed to be sure they meet product specifications.
Apex Energetics: http://www.apexenergetics.com/ Apex uses cutting-edge science and practitioner observations and experience while collaborating with the top international experts in the field. Utilizing the latest peer-reviewed scientific research they develop effective nutritional strategies and formulas. Apex offers supplements, creams, flower essences and homeopathics. The supplements are created to support the endocrine system, gastrointestinal system, brain, brain-gut axis, circulatory system, hepatobiliary system, musculoskeletal system, and immune system with high-quality ingredients.
Xymogen: Xymogen formulas do not contain wheat, gluten, corn protein, yeast, soy, animal, or dairy products unless otherwise labeled. None of the formulas contain artificial colors, artificial sweeteners, or preservatives. Dicalcium phosphate, methylcellulose, glycerin, and croscarmellose sodium comprise the majority of binders used in the tablets. All binders are hypoallergenic, non-animal derived compounds. Xymogen supplies supplements, vitamins, detoxes, and nutritional support.
Remember that supplements are just that – supplemental to your diet. Please practice a healthy lifestyle, full of real whole foods and plenty of exercise! Once your diet is optimized, nutrients flood in, energy increases, blood sugar stabilizes and the immune system balances.
In a time where our food quality is not where it should be, health is declining faster than it should, and people are deficient in vitamins and minerals, supplements are on the rise. We should be thankful that there are supplemental options to help our bodies meet their needs; however, so many of these supplements are causing more harm than good. It’s time to learn what is in our supplements. There will be four articles total on the subject – Fillers, Dyes, Sugars, and How to Choose – as it is an overwhelming amount of information to put out at once.
The truth: The supplements lining our store shelves are full of contaminants, substitutes, and fillers. We are being sold (mostly) lies.
A study performed in 2013 (SOURCE) looked at 44 supplemental products by 12 companies and broke down the labels compared to actual ingredients. The results speak for themselves, all but 2 products contained fillers, contaminants, and ingredients not listed on their labels.
The entire process of manufacturing, distributing, and marketing supplements is subject to a completely different set of rules than for drugs. These products may sit on pharmacy shelves, side-by-side with bottles of Tylenol, but they are held to significantly lower safety and efficacy standards. This is a very scary thought, as the safety of Tylenol is truly questionable as we learn more about it.
Supplements are fundamentally different from pharmaceutical grade medicine. Pharmaceutical grade medicines are powerful chemicals that can overpower your body chemistry, or kill pathogenic organisms. And while sometimes they are necessary, they can be deadly when used improperly. Good supplements, instead, allow your body to maximize its natural abilities or provide support to your body’s systems. Supplemental effectiveness, however, cannot override bad lifestyle choices, such as diet, sedentariness, or lack of sleep. Conversely, supplements’ effects are compounded when used in tandem with proper diet, exercise and rest. That being said, you still have to be sure that what you are buying is what you are getting.
Supplement manufacturers often add in a variety of fillers to their vitamin and mineral supplements for numerous reasons:
- Easier and faster production
- More appealing to the eye(colorants)
- Easier to swallow (coatings)
The reasons for using fillers aside, the real problem lies in how these fillers impact your body and health. Simply put, it’s not good. Just like processed foods being loaded with additives and fillers, the same goes for vitamins. Any supplement that has additives and fillers will be harmful to your health in the same way those processed foods are.
In February 2015, four of the largest retail stores (GNC, Target, Walgreens and Walmart) were accused of fraudulently selling herbal products that in many cases were contaminated or did not contain any of the herb listed on the label. Among the attorney general’s findings was a popular store brand of ginseng pills at Walgreens, promoted for “physical endurance and vitality,” that contained only powdered garlic and rice. At Walmart, the authorities found that its ginkgo biloba, a Chinese plant promoted as a memory enhancer, contained little more than powdered radish, houseplants and wheat — despite a claim on the label that the product was wheat- and gluten-free.
GNC (Herbal Plus brand): http://well.blogs.nytimes.com/2015/02/03/sidebar-whats-in-those-supplements/
- Gingko biloba: No actual Gingko biloba found, detected garlic, rice, spruce, asparagus
- John’s wort: None found, detected garlic, rice, and dracaena (a houseplant)
- Ginseng: None found, detected rice, dracaena, pine, wheat, grass and citrus
- Echinacea: None found, detected rice
- Saw palmetto: One sample had the product
- Garlic: Contained garlic
Target (Up and Up brand)
- Gingko biloba: No actual Gingko biloba found, detected rice, garlic and mung bean
- John’s wort: None found, detected garlic, rice and dracaena
- Garlic: Contained garlic! (one test detected no product)
- Echinacea: Found in most samples
- Saw palmetto: Found in most but not all samples
- Valerian: None detected, found allium, bean, asparagus, pea family, rice, wild carrot and saw palmetto
Walgreens (Finest Nutrition brand)
- Gingko biloba: No actual Gingko biloba found, detected rice
- John’s wort: None found, detected garlic, rice and dracaena
- Ginseng: None found, detected garlic and rice
- Garlic: None found, detected palm, dracaena, wheat and rice
- Echinacea: None found, detected garlic, rice and daisy
- Saw palmetto: contained saw palmetto!
Walmart (Spring Valley brand)
- Gingko biloba: No actual Gingko biloba found, detected rice, dracaena, mustard, wheat, radish
- John’s wort: None found, detected garlic, rice and cassava
- Ginseng: None found, detected rice, dracaena, pine, wheat/grass and citrus
- Garlic: One sample had product
- Echinacea: None found in supplement
- Saw palmetto: Some samples contained small amounts. Also found garlic and rice
This is just scratching the surface. Think of the vitamins and other herbal supplements behind your cabinet doors. The ones you take religiously, or have your family members take daily. Chances are, unless you have done your research, that you are swallowing your money along with that rice-filled capsule.
Supplement companies are trying to validate their products by stating “these contaminants are actually acceptable fillers.” Another problem, studies are showing that there is little consistency from one capsule, tablet, or scoop to another. https://www.sciencebasedmedicine.org/searching-for-the-supplement-in-your-supplement/
Not only are we being lied to, and throwing our money away, but for some people this crosses the line to dangerous. Those with allergies (like soy, or even plants) or are strictly gluten-free may have severe reactions to fraudulent supplements.
Many of the fillers found in the most common supplements: http://articles.mercola.com/sites/articles/archive/2012/07/24/pharmaceutical-drugs-vs-nutritional-supplements.aspx
- Corn Starch
- Steric Acid
- Hydrogenated Oils: The most used filler being partially hydrogenated soybean oil, which encourages heart problems, strokes, nervous system problems, block the absorption of essential fatty acids, upset blood sugar regulation and more.
- Talc: a cheap filler and anti-caking agent
- Magnesium Silicate: Magnesium silicate is similar in composition to asbestos and can cause lung problems when inhaled
- Magnesium Stearate: a lubricant so that the vitamins don’t stick to one another. It may create a suppressed immune system and some studies show that this ‘chalk’ will create a biofilm in the body that can keep the body from absorbing any of the needed nutrients.
We can also add GMO/ and pesticides to the list as the above fillers are not organic and most come sprayed with pesticides and herbicides.
A note: Do research on the companies whose supplements you buy. Ask companies about their methods or where they source their ingredients. Ask for independent lab results verifying the contents of their supplements. Many will be happy to provide you that information, because they stand by their products. If they are reticent to provide that information, look elsewhere for your supplements.