| VITAMINS, MINERALS & AMINO ACIDS
Vitamins, Minerals and Amino Acids are essential to our bodies' health and development. HERBAL EXTRACTS PLUS has researched and prepared information about these (and other important nutrients) to help you better understand how they function, and what you can do to ensure that your body is getting what it needs for good health - for life!
|Vitamins ~ A Short Reference and Guide to Vitamin Supplements
Vitamins are a group of organic compounds or micronutrients that are present in all living things. They are available in minute quantities of natural foodstuffs and are usually obtained from a normal diet. Vitamins are essential to normal metabolism, maintaining life and promoting growth and good health. Vitamins are considered micronutrients because the body needs them in relatively small amounts, in comparison with other nutrients, such as carbohydrates, proteins, fats and water. We have come to realize that vitamins not only sustain life, but also play an indispensable role in our daily well-being.
Vitamins were given letters to go with their chemical names to simplify their descriptions. Isn't it much easier to refer to vitamin E, rather than "d-alpha tocopheryl succinate?" Vitamins are considered co-enzymes, because they work with enzymes (the essential chemicals that are the foundation of human bodily functions) to facilitate the body's activities to be carried out efficiently.
Thousands of years ago, people understood that many ailments could be improved with certain herbs and foods. In 1880, Dutch physician, Christian Eijkmann (who is credited with the discovery of vitamins), experimented with induced vitamin-deficiency in animals and then reversed the conditions with appropriate dietary changes. This theory was expanded upon by Englishmen, William Fletcher, in 1905, who noted that if a vitamin were absent from the diet or not properly absorbed by the body, a specific deficiency might develop. While he was studying the causes of beriberi, he noticed that the disease could be prevented by eating unpolished rice (rather than polished); therefore, the unrefined rice grains must have contained special nutrients - which they did – and we now call them vitamins.
In 1912, Casimir Funk, a Polish biochemist, arrived at the first formulation of the concept of vitamins, which he called “vital amines” or “vitamines” – vita for life – and amine, because he found that thiamine isolated from rice husks contained nitrogen bound to hydrogen atoms. This term was eventually changed to “vitamin.”
Since the 1930s, scientific research has discovered many biochemical functions of vitamins and established the body's need for them. This need often goes far beyond the simple remedies for deficiency diseases (i.e., vitamin C for scurvy and vitamin D for rickets), and modern studies have discovered many therapeutic uses (in pharmacological doses) for a variety of health conditions (i.e., niacin can lower blood cholesterol levels).
There are thirteen vitamins in all: Four are oil/fat-soluble (A, D, E and K), and nine are water-soluble (eight official B-complex vitamins and vitamin C). Fat-soluble vitamins can be stored in the body's fatty tissue for longer periods of time and do not have to be ingested every day. Because they can be stored, it is possible to store too much, and care must be taken to avoid toxicity. Water-soluble vitamins must be taken into the body daily, because they cannot be stored and are excreted within one day.
Vitamin A: Discovered in 1912-1914 by McCollum and Davis, vitamin A was first synthesized in 1947. Benefits include enhancing the immune system and strengthening membranes, thus fighting infection. It is considered one of the antioxidant vitamins. Vitamin A is said to be good for eye problems and aids vision, as well as helping to keep our skin clear and reproductive system healthy. Other benefits include helping jawbone and tooth formation, maintaining healthy gums and combating otosclerosis (ear ailment). Overuse can be toxic and place unnecessary stress on the liver. Some of the herbs that include this vitamin are: alfalfa, borage, burdock, cayenne, chickweed, eyebright, fennel, hops, horsetail, kelp, lemongrass, mullein, nettle, oat straw, parsley, peppermint, plantain, raspberry leaf, uva ursi, violet leaves and yellow dock.
The B-VITAMINS: It is important to realize that B-vitamins are a team, working best as a team, and are most effective when included in a balanced B-vitamin/complex form, so that benefits of each are enhanced and negative aspects are minimized. They are said to be one of the most essential groups of vitamins and vital in maintaining the health of the nervous system, skin, eyes, hair, liver, brain function, muscle tone and gastrointestinal tract. These vitamins together are responsible for helping enzymes release energy from food, promote proper metabolism, give cells plenty of oxygen, detoxify organs, stabilize your nervous system functions, keep skin and hair healthy, prevent defective vision, and have also been used in the treatment of debilitating conditions.
Vitamin B-1 - Thiamine: Discovered in 1912 by Casimir Funk, vitamin B-1 is said to be good for circulation, carbohydrate metabolism, cognitive activity, brain function and nervous system health. Some of the herbs that include this vitamin are: alfalfa, bladderwrack, burdock root, catnip, cayenne, chamomile, chickweed, eyebright, fennel, fenugreek, hops, nettle, oat straw, parsley, peppermint, raspberry leaf, red clover, rose hips, sage and yellow dock.
Vitamin B-2 – Riboflavin (or Vitamin G): Discovered in 1926 by Tishler and Williams (also inventors of synthetic vitamins), it is needed for the digestion and metabolism of protein, fats and carbohydrates and is also necessary for cell respiration. Vitamin B-2 is required for the formation of red blood cells and antibodies and benefits vision, healthy skin, nails and hair. It also aids growth and reproduction and helps in stressful situations. Some of the herbs that include this vitamin are: alfalfa, asparagus, bee pollen, broccoli, onion, parsley, rosehips and spirulina.
Vitamin B-3 – Niacin (or Niacinamide or Vitamin P): Discovered in 1937 by Conrad Elvehjem, niacin is said to be helpful in lowering serum cholesterol, reducing high blood pressure, preventing fatty buildup in the liver, maintaining the nervous system and helping to reduce depression. B-3 is needed for proper circulation and healthy skin and thought to be better tolerated when taken with vitamin C (niacin has a tendency to cause flushing and a warm, tingling sensation). Some of the herbs that include this vitamin are: alfalfa, burdock, catnip, cayenne, chamomile, chickweed, eyebright, fennel, hops, licorice, mullein, nettle oat straw, parsley, peppermint, raspberry leaf, red clover, rose hips, slippery elm and yellow dock.
Vitamin B-5 – Pantothenic Acid: Vitamin B-5 is said to be the anti-stress vitamin and involved in the production of neurotransmitters. It also aids in vitamin utilization and helps to convert fats, carbohydrates and proteins into energy. Pantothenic Acid assists in cell building and required by all cells in the body. B-5 improves the body's resistance to stress and assists in the development of the central nervous system. It is also said to help adrenal glands and to fight infections by building antibodies. It may be found in the herbal supplement: royal jelly.
Vitamin B-6 – Pyridoxine (or Pyridoxamine): Discovered in 1934 by Paul Gyorgy, Pyridoxine is said to be good for menstrual problems (removing excess fluid) and for reducing the risk of arteriosclerosis and stroke. B-6 aids in the formation of antibodies and in fat and carbohydrate metabolism. It is necessary for the body to produce lecithin (which is used clinically to clear out fatty livers and clogged arteries). B-6 is necessary for the synthesis and breakdown of amino acids, the building blocks of protein. It also promotes healthy skin, reduces muscle spasms, carpal tunnel syndrome, leg cramps and numbing of the hands. Overuse of B-6 may cause tingling in the limbs. Some of the herbs that contain this vitamin include: alfalfa, catnip and oat straw.
Vitamin B-7 – Biotin (or Vitamin H or Vitamin B-w): After the initial discovery of biotin, nearly forty years of research were required to establish it as a vitamin. Biotin is required by all organisms but can be synthesized only by bacteria, yeasts, molds, algae and some plant species. It promotes healthy hair and helps to utilize protein, folic acid, pantothenic acid and vitamin B-12 in the body. It may be found in the herbal supplement, soy.
Vitamin B-9 - Folic Acid (or Vitamin M or Vitamin B-c): Discovered in 1933 by Lucy Wills, folic acid is necessary for DNA and RNA synthesis, which, in turn, is essential for the growth and reproduction of all body cells. It is essential for the formation of red blood cells by its action on bone marrow and aids in amino acid metabolism. Folic acid can be found in the herbal supplements, spinach and broccoli.
Vitamin B-12 – Cobalamin (or Cyanocobalamin): It is said to help in the formation and regeneration of red blood cells, helping to prevent anemia. It is necessary for calcium absorption and carbohydrate, fat and protein metabolism. B-12 helps to maintain a healthy nervous system, promotes growth in children and increases energy. Some of the herbal supplements that include this vitamin are: alfalfa, bladderwrack, wheat grass, white oak, spirulina and hops.
There are other substances that are not strictly considered vitamins by definition but are, nevertheless, frequently included in the B-complex range:
Choline – (or Vitamin B-p): This B-vitamin is an essential nutrient and important in controlling fat and cholesterol building in the body, prevents fat from accumulating in the liver and facilitates the movement of fats in the cells. It also helps to regulate the kidneys, liver and gallbladder and is important for nerve transmission. Choline is thought to help improve memory function and must be consumed in the diet to maintain health. It may be found in lecithin and is needed for the proper transmission of nerve impulses from the brain through the central nervous system. Choline may be found in the herbal supplement, yerba maté.
PABA - Para Amino Benzoic Acid (or Vitamin B-x): PABA aids healthy bacteria to produce folic acid, helps to form red bloods cells and assists in the assimilation of pantothenic acid. It contains sun-screening properties and is said to return hair to its natural color.
Inositol (or Vitamin B-h): Inositol aids in the breakdown of fats, helps to reduce cholesterol levels in blood and prevent thinning hair. It is important for proper heart function and for nourishing brain cells. Inositol helps to protect the liver, kidneys, heart and is necessary for the production of healthy cells in bone marrow. It is needed for the formation of lecithin and produces a calming effect, and it also helps to prevent hardening of the arteries. Some of the herbal supplements that include inositol are: spirulina, echinacea, wheat grass, alfalfa, onion, yerba maté and oat straw.
Vitamin C – Ascorbic Acid: Discovered originally in 1747 by Scottish naval surgeon, James Lind, who noticed that a “substance” in citrus fruits (ascorbic acid) prevented scurvy, it was re-discovered in 1912 by Hoist and Froelich. Scientist, Dr. Albert Szent-Gyorgyi, won the Nobel Prize for his discovery of vitamin C, and vitamin C was the first vitamin to be synthesized in 1935 in a process created Dr. Tadeusz Reichstein of the Swiss Institute of Technology in Zurich. Some claim that vitamin C is the most essential and beneficial vitamin. It is a major antioxidant, strengthens blood vessels and fights infection, viruses and bacterial toxins. It is also a natural laxative and used in the formation of red blood cells. Vitamin C lowers the incidence of blood clots in veins and protects the brain and spinal cord from damage. It helps wounds heal and preserves and mends connective tissue. Ascorbic acid is essential for collagen production in the body and helps decrease cholesterol. Some of the herbal supplements that include this vitamin are: green pepper, wheat grass, alfalfa, broccoli, burdock root, cauliflower, garlic and parsley.
Vitamin D - Calciferol: Vitamin D was discovered in 1922 by Edward Mellanby and is sometimes called the “Sunshine” vitamin, because the sun is its source. Vitamin D helps the body utilize calcium and phosphorus, helping the body to form strong bones, teeth and healthy skin. It is necessary for thyroid function and growth, and it protects against muscle weakness. It is also involved in the regulation of the heartbeat and plays a role in preventing breast and colon cancer and osteoporosis. Excessive use can cause toxicity. Some of the herbal supplements that include this vitamin are: alfalfa, lemon grass, horsetail, nettle and parsley, as well as Acai fruit, Noni fruit and Cranberry.
Vitamin E - Tocopherol: Vitamin E was discovered in 1922 by Evans and Bishop. Vitamin E guarantees that the organs will be supplied with oxygen. It strengthens capillary walls, rejuvenates blood and helps skin lesions heal internally and externally. Vitamin E is considered a potent antioxidant and helpful in preventing cancer and cardiovascular disease. It is essential for reproduction and beneficial for male and female fertility and also prevents blood clots. Moreover, vitamin E supplies oxygen to the body for more endurance and is said to protect tissues from damage by environmental pollutants. Some of the herbal supplements that include this vitamin are: alfalfa, bladderwrack, dandelion, dong quai, flaxseed, nettle, carrot, kelp, oat straw, raspberry leaf, spirulina, wheat grass and rose hips.
The following list includes several substances that are often referred to as unofficial vitamins:
Vitamin K - Phylloquinone: Vitamin K is needed for the production of prothrombin, which is necessary for blood clotting and is essential for bone formation and repair. Vitamin K plays an important role in intestinal health and in converting glucose into glycogen for storage in the liver. It also may increase resistance to infection and certain cancers. This vitamin can be formed by natural bacteria in the intestines and is considered a vitality and longevity factor. Vitamin K is needed when taking antibiotics, because healthy, necessary bacteria are destroyed during this time by the activity of the antibiotics. Some of the herbal supplements that include Vitamin K include alfalfa, cayenne, green tea, kelp, nettle, oat straw, soy, ginger, carrot, cabbage, cauliflower and shepherd's purse.
Vitamin P - Bioflavonoids: Bioflavonoids are a large group of compounds found in many herbs and plants that maintain the resistance of cell and capillary walls to permeation. Vitamin P is the water-soluble companion of ascorbic acid (vitamin C) and was first discovered in 1936 by scientist Dr. Albert Szent-Gyorgyi, who won the Nobel Prize for his discovery of vitamin C. Vitamin P is contained mainly in the edible pulp of the fruits, rather than in the strained juices and includes rutin, hesperidin, quercetin, eriodictyl and citron. The letter "P" stands for permeability factor and was given to this group of nutrients because they improve capillary strength and permeability. They are essential for the absorption of vitamin C and aid in preventing bleeding gums and bruising. They help to speed recovery from the common cold and treat edema and dizziness. Bioflavonoids also build resistance to infections and may be helpful in combating cancers. Some of the herbal supplements containing bioflavonoids include onion, broccoli, red wine extract, lemon peel, orange peel, spirulina, elderberry, chervil, hawthorne, horsetail, rose rips and shepherd's purse.
Vitamin F - Unsaturated Fatty Acids: Vitamin F aids in weight reduction and encourages healthy hair and skin. It helps to combat heart disease and works to prevent cholesterol deposits in arteries. It also facilitates blood coagulation, makes calcium available to cells and is essential for normal glandular activity, especially the adrenal and thyroid glands. Vitamin F is beneficial for a healthy nervous system. Some of the herbs that contain unsaturated fatty acids include: angelica, fennel, garlic, ginger, parsley, spinach, spirulina and wheat grass.
Coenzyme Q-10 – Ubiquinone: Coenzyme Q-10 was discovered by Dr. Frederick Crane of the University of Wisconsin in 1957. This substance is vitamin-like and found in all parts of the body and whose actions resemble those of vitamin E. It may be an even more powerful antioxidant than vitamin E, and it plays a critical role in the production of energy in every cell of the body. It aids circulation, stimulates the immune system, increases tissue oxygenation and has vital anti-ageing effects. It is beneficial in cases of allergies, asthma, mental function, obesity, candidiasis, multiple sclerosis and diabetes. Herbal supplements that include Coenzyme Q-10 include omega-3 fatty acids and spinach.
There are additional nutritional substances that are sometimes referred to as vitamins, and they include: Adenine (B-4), Ergadenylic Acid (B-8), Pteroylmonoglutamic Acid (B-10), Oritic Acid (B-13), Pangamic Acid (B-15), Amygdalin (B0-17), L-Carnitine (B-t) – also called an Amino Acid because of chemical structure.
|Minerals ~ The Key Ingredients of Life
Did you know that all the minerals found on earth are also to be found in our bodies? Just like our earth, we need minerals to exist, but more importantly, we need minerals to live a balanced and healthy life. Like vitamins, minerals act as coenzymes, “activating” the body to grow, produce energy and to heal. Together, vitamins and minerals are called micronutrients, and since the body cannot manufacture most micronutrients, they must be supplemented by our diets. Because all enzyme activity involves minerals, they are essential for the proper utilization of vitamins and other nutrients and are responsible for every activity in every cell of our bodies. Maintaining optimum health is totally dependent upon cellular health.
We need minerals for more than strong bones and teeth; minerals are needed to build skeletal and soft tissue, and they regulate functions such as heartbeat, blood clotting, healthy nerve function, muscle tone, internal fluid pressure and oxygen transport. Just as the earth – and all of nature – requires balance to function as its optimum level, the human body must maintain its proper chemical balance. Without proper mineral ratios we could not set into motion the properties and functions of enzymes, vitamins or amino acids. If one mineral is out of balance, all mineral levels are affected, and if not corrected, the disparity could produce a chain reaction leading to poor health; however, when these chemicals are balanced in the correct ratios, our bodies can perform in an amazing way to promote its own health.
Minerals are inorganic substances (not of plant or animal origin) that exist on or in the earth, and those that are critical to human tissue fall into two categories: The “major minerals” are so-called, because the body needs calcium, phosphorus and magnesium in relatively large amounts. Other minerals sometimes referred to as major minerals include potassium, sodium and sulfur. The minerals that are required by the body in lesser amounts are referred to as “trace minerals,” and include boron, copper, chromium, iodine, manganese, molybdenum, iodine, zinc, selenium, iron and others. (We also know that some organs require higher concentrations of certain minerals).
As a quick guide, HERBAL EXTRACTS PLUS has provided a condensed list of minerals for your reference:
Boron is needed only in trace amounts for healthy bones and muscle growth and is necessary for the metabolism of calcium, phosphorus and magnesium. Boron is now thought to work in conjunction with other nutrients and hormones, especially calcium, magnesium, phosphorus, vitamin D, and estrogen, to promote bone health. It helps to build muscle and fights postmenopausal osteoporosis. Boron enhances brain function and mental sharpness and also helps the body utilize energy from fats and sugars. Boron deficiency heightens vitamin D deficiency. There is some evidence that boron may help prevent joint ailments such as arthritis. Some recent studies suggest that a lack of boron may diminish immune function. Boron also helps to enhance thinking, memory and wound healing.
Calcium is the most important and most common mineral that we need. It is vital for the formation of strong bones, teeth and for the maintenance of healthy gums. In menopausal and post-menopausal women, loss of bone density due to lack of calcium can produce osteoporosis (which may lead to falls, broken bones, the so-called “dowager's hump” on the upper back, etc.). Calcium is important for a regular heartbeat, the transmission of nerve impulses, lowering cholesterol and helping to prevent cardiovascular disease. It is needed for muscular growth and contraction and the prevention of muscle cramps, and is essential in blood clotting and helping to prevent cancer. It may lower blood pressure and provides energy, as well as participating in the protein structuring of RNA and DNA. It helps to activate lipase (enzyme), which breaks down fats and maintains healthy cell membrane permeability. Calcium aids in neuromuscular activity, benefits skin and protects against pre-eclampsia and high blood pressure during pregnancy. The amino acid lysine is needed for calcium absorption, and vitamin D also increases intestinal absorption of this mineral. Fiber, on the other hand, tends to block absorption of calcium and should be taken at a different time, and a diet high in protein, fat and sugar also affects calcium uptake.
Chromium is involved in the metabolism of glucose, and it is needed for energy. It is important in the synthesis of cholesterol, fats and proteins and maintains stable blood sugar levels through proper insulin utilization. Low levels of chromium can indicate coronary artery disease. During pregnancy chromium is necessary for the developing fetus and can help the expectant mother maintain healthy sugar levels. High quantities of sugar in the diet cause chromium loss, as well as a diet of refined white sugar, flour and junk foods.
Copper is a trace mineral that is necessary for the manufacture of bone, hemoglobin and red blood cells and works with zinc and vitamin C to form elastin (a protein), so important for good skin. It helps in the healing process, energy production, hair and skin coloring and taste sensitivity, as well as healthy nerves and joints. Copper is necessary for collagen formation (another protein) in skin, bones and connective tissue. Copper levels are reduced if large amounts of zinc or vitamin C are consumed; conversely if copper intake is too high, levels of vitamin C and zinc drop, and excess copper can lead to toxicity.
Fluoride is a trace mineral that may decrease the incidence of tooth decay and is often found in our municipal drinking water to protect the teeth from cavities.
Germanium is a trace mineral that is thought to play an essential role in maintaining human health. It transports oxygen to the cells and helps to fight pain, enhance the immune system and expel toxins from the body. It can be beneficial for rheumatoid arthritis, food allergies, elevated cholesterol, candidiasis, chronic viral infections, cancer and AIDS.
Only trace amounts of iodine are needed to help the body metabolize excess fat, and it is important for physical and mental development, as well as a healthy thyroid gland and the prevention of goiter. Iodine deficiency in children may result in mental retardation. At one time iodine deficiency was common in America. It caused thyroid enlargement (goiter) and low thyroid hormone level in the body causing a medical condition called hypothyroidism. Today, the food industry frequently adds iodine to salt, foods and multivitamin supplements, and iodine deficiency is, consequently, very rare.
Iron is needed for the red blood cells that carry oxygen. Iron's most important function in the body is to produce hemoglobin and myoglobin (the form of hemoglobin found in muscle tissue). It also carries oxygen to the red blood cells and is found in the largest amounts in the blood. Iron is necessary for the production of energy, the synthesis of collagen and the proper function of the immune system. It is essential for many enzymes and is important for growth. Too much iron will adversely affect the body's immune function, cell growth and heart health. Iron deficiency can cause anemia, brittle hair, fatigue, fragile bones, ridged nails and slowed mental reactions. Vitamin C enhances iron absorption.
Magnesium is needed for the maintenance of the acid/alkaline balance in the body and healthy nerve and muscle function. It is vital for the activation of enzymes to metabolize blood sugars, proteins and carbohydrates and is needed for proper bone growth. Magnesium helps potassium and calcium absorption, helping to maintain strong bones. Magnesium deficiency may lead to abnormal heartbeat, dizziness, muscle twitches and anxiety. Magnesium may help to prevent kidney stones and helps to prevent calcification of soft tissue. It also protects the arterial lining from the stress caused by sudden blood pressure changes.
Only minute amounts of Manganese are required for fat and protein metabolism, healthy nerves, sound immune system and blood sugar balance. Manganese is required for the synthesis of bone and normal bone growth. It is important for energy production, healthy reproduction, the development of cartilage and the formation of lubricating fluid for the joints. Manganese deficiency (rare) is associated with arteriosclerosis, confusion, eye and hearing problems, heart disorders, high cholesterol levels, memory loss, profuse perspiration and rapid pulse.
Molybdenum is needed in only small amounts for nitrogen metabolism and helps to promote normal cell function and the activation of certain enzymes. It supports bone growth and strengthening of the teeth and facilitates the final stages of the conversion of purines to uric acid. Molybdenum deficiency (rare) is associated with mouth and gum disorders and cancer and may cause impotence in older men.
Most phosphorus in the body is found in bone. When in soft tissue and cells, phosphorus contributes to many natural chemical body processes and is required for blood clotting, bone and tooth formation, cell growth, contraction of the heart muscle, normal heart rhythm and kidney function. A proper balance of magnesium, calcium and phosphorus must be maintained at all times to avoid adverse effects within the body. A deficiency in phosphorus (rare) can lead to anxiety, fatigue, weight fluctuations, bone pain and irregular breathing. Aluminum prevents phosphorus absorption.
Potassium is the most common mineral inside the body's cells. It is vital for a regular heartbeat, hormone secretion and nervous system health. Potassium is critical to the transmission of electrochemical nerve impulses, muscle contractions and the maintenance of normal blood pressure. Along with sodium, potassium is a primary regulator of fluids within cells and helps to prevent strokes and regulates the transfer of nutrients through cell membranes. The kidneys control potassium levels, and adequate water must be consumed or there may be a potassium deficiency. This deficiency can also be caused by overuse of laxatives and diuretics, as well as excessive vomiting, chronic diarrhea or kidney failure. Signs of deficiency may include muscle weakness, intestinal problems, heart abnormalities, diminished reflex function, high cholesterol, low blood pressure, nausea, chills, cognitive impairment, constipation and respiratory weakness.
Selenium is a powerful antioxidant that works in conjunction with vitamin E to support critical antioxidant enzyme functions. Its principal function is to inhibit the oxidation of lipids (fats) and protects the immune system by preventing the formation of free radicals that can damage the body. It also plays a vital role in regulating the effects of thyroid hormone in fat metabolism. Excessive use may affect enzyme function and can cause nausea, hair and nail loss, skin problems and nerve damage.
Silicon is important in the composition and calcification of cartilage to produce bone and may prevent osteoporosis. Next to oxygen, it is the second most abundant element on earth and is needed for healthy nails and hair, as well as calcium absorption in the early stages of bone formation. It is beneficial for maintaining flexible arteries and is believed to play a major role in preventing cardiovascular disease. Because it is thought to counteract the effects of aluminum in the body, Silicon may be important in the prevention of Alzheimer's disease. Silicon is said to retard the ageing process in tissues, but silicon levels do decrease with age, and the elderly are thought to require more.
Sodium and Chloride:
Sodium and chloride are the most common minerals in the blood and body fluids (but not in the cells). Sodium is necessary for maintaining proper water balance and blood pH and is also needed for stomach, nerve and muscle function. The problem with sodium is that so much is available in the foods we eat, especially prepared foods of almost every kind, so sodium deficiency is rare, although it can occur in people who take diuretics for high blood pressure, and symptoms include abdominal cramps, anorexia, confusion, dehydration, depression, fatigue, flatulence, heart palpitations, confusion and an impaired sense of taste. On the other hand, excessive sodium intake can result in edema, high blood pressure, potassium deficiency and kidney and liver disease. One should use salt in moderation.
Sulfur is found in all body tissues and disinfects the blood, helps the body to fight bacteria and protects the protoplasm of cells. It is an acid-forming mineral that is part of the chemical structure of the amino acids, methionine, cystein, taurine and glutathione, and it stimulates bile secretion, protects against toxic substances and assists in necessary oxidation reactions in the body, protecting against the harmful effects of radiation and pollution and also retarding the ageing process. Sulfur is needed for the synthesis of collagen, a principal protein that gives skin its structural integrity.
Vanadium is necessary for cellular metabolism and the formation of bones and teeth, and it also plays a role in growth and healthy reproduction. It inhibits cholesterol synthesis, and there is also some scientific evidence that vanadium contributes to fat metabolism. Vanadium may also improve insulin utilization, resulting in better glucose tolerance.
Zinc is important for the normal functions of taste and smell and, probably, for enhancing immune function. It is also beneficial for the health of the reproductive organs (particularly in men) and helps in the normal synthesis of protein. A deficiency in zinc is thought to adversely affect the immune system, normal growth, skin and nerve health and natural healing ability. Smoking and overuse of alcohol can reduce zinc levels.
A lack of specific minerals in balance can hasten both acute and chronic health problems, and we know that a strong immune system can help us to combat invading bacteria and infections. The best way to build our immune systems is through a proper diet. Additionally, there are many herbal supplements that provide minerals, vitamins and amino acids that will assist us in our mission to achieve and maintain overall optimum health.
|Amino Acids ~ The Building Blocks of Life
Amino Acids are considered the “building blocks” of life. They are the chemical units that make up proteins and are also the end products of hydrolysis (protein digestion). To understand amino acids, it is first important to understand the role of protein in the body. A protein is any chain of amino acids, and proteins are a necessary part of all our cells. Along with water (which comprises about sixty percent of our bodily weight), proteins (which comprise about twenty percent of bodily weight) are the principal substances of our muscles, ligaments, tendons, organs, glands, blood and skin. Most of the rest of the body is composed of minerals (for example, calcium in the bones).
Proteins form the collagen of the connective tissue that holds our bones together and make up our nails and hair and are also essential for the growth of bones. Proteins help to regulate the balance of water and proper internal pH; and the genetic material contained in each cell's DNA contains the instructions needed to make that cell's proteins. Each protein is tailored for a specific bodily requirement; proteins are not interchangeable. If there is a shortage of vital proteins, the body can suffer from a wide range of problems, ranging from indigestion to depression to stunted growth.
An amino acid is a small molecule that acts as the building block of any cell. While carbohydrates provide cells with energy, amino acids provide cells with the building material they need to grow and maintain their structure. Amino acids are so-called, because they all contain an amino group (NH 2) and a carboxyl group (COOH), which is acidic.
There is disagreement about the exact number of all amino acids in human proteins, varying from twenty to twenty-eight. These substances are combined in different ways to create the hundreds of different proteins present in all living things. In the human body, the liver produces most of the amino acids needed; these are the so-called nonessential amino acids, since the body manufacturers them. Because our bodies lack the ability to synthesize the remaining acids, we must obtain these essential amino acids from the proteins in the foods we eat. The body will then use them to form our own bodily protein. It is important to remember that all amino acids are essential to good health and work together as a team to stabilize the final structure of protein and to perform their specific functions to maintain and improve bodily health.
Protein 101: How much do you need?
- From MSNBC.com's Health Section - 08/29/06
"Until the craze of high-protein diets a few years ago, most dieters didn’t pay a lot of attention to their protein intake. But everyone needs protein for their bodies to function. Protein is one of the big three macronutrients. The other two are carbohydrate and fat. Adequate protein intake is essential for good health: It's necessary for maintaining the body's normal growth and its muscle mass (which is mostly protein), its immune system and heart and respiratory functions."
Essential Amino Acids:
Isoleucine is considered one of the branched-chain amino acids (along with leucine and valine) that work together to protect muscle and act as fuel (important for athletes). It is needed for hemoglobin formation and also stabilizes blood sugar and energy levels. Isoleucine deficiency has been found in people suffering from many different mental problems.
Leucine is another of the branched-chain amino acids (with isoleucine and valine) that provides ingredients for the manufacture of other essential biochemical components in the body, some of which are utilized for the production of energy, stimulants to the upper brain and helping mental function. It also protects muscle and promotes the healing of bones, skin and muscle tissue. Leucine also helps to lower elevated blood sugar levels and helps to increase growth hormone production.
Lysine ensures the adequate absorption of calcium, helps form collagen (which makes up bone cartilage and connective tissues), aids in the production of antibodies, hormones and enzymes. Recent studies have shown that Lysine may be effective against herpes by improving the balance of nutrients that reduce viral growth. A deficiency may result in fatigue, inability to concentrate, irritability, bloodshot eyes, retarded growth, hair loss, anemia and reproductive problems.
Methionine is a principle supplier of sulfur, which helps to prevent disorders of the hair, skin and nails, and it also helps to lower cholesterol levels by increasing the liver's production of lecithin. It assists in the breakdown of fats, reducing liver fat, and also protects the kidneys. Methionine regulates the formation of ammonia and creates ammonia-free urine, thereby reducing bladder irritation. Methionine is considered a natural chelating agent for heavy metals, binding to the metal and helping the body to remove it.
Phenylalanine has a direct effect on brain chemistry and is used by the brain to be converted into another amino acid, tyrosine, which, in turn, is used to synthesize two key neurotransmitters that transmit signals between nerve cells and the brain - dopamine and norepinephrine. These neurotransmitters promote alertness, brain function and improved memory, and they also act to reduce hunger pangs and depression. Low levels of phenylalanine and tyrosine have been associated with Epstein-Barr virus.
Threonine helps to maintain proper protein balance in the body and is an important constituent of collagen, elastin and enamel protein. It helps prevent fat buildup in the liver and enhances the immune system by helping to produce antibodies. Threonine assists the digestive and intestinal tracts to function more smoothly and enhances metabolism and assimilation. Threonine is a precursor of the amino acids, glycine and serine and is present in the heart, central nervous system and skeletal muscle.
Tryptophan is necessary for the production of vitamin B-3 and used by the brain to produce serotonin, a neurotransmitter that regulates normal sleep. It is a natural relaxant, reduces anxiety and depression, helps in the treatment of migraine headaches and boosts the immune system. Tryptophan also helps to reduce the risk of artery and heart spasms and works with lysine to reduce cholesterol levels.
It is another of the branched-chain amino acids (with isoleucine and leucine) that work together to assist in tissue repair and muscle metabolism. Valine has a stimulatory effect and can be used as an energy source by the muscles. It may be helpful in treating liver and gallbladder disease and helps to maintain proper nitrogen balance in the body. Valine promotes mental vigor, muscle coordination and calm emotions.
Histidine is sometimes referred to as a non-essential amino acid and is found abundantly in hemoglobin. It has been used in the treatment of rheumatoid arthritis, allergic diseases, ulcers and anemia, and a deficiency of histidine can cause poor hearing and arthritis It protects nerve cells and is needed for the production of both red and white blood cells. Histidine also helps to protect the body from radiation damage, helps to lower blood pressure and aids in the removal of heavy metals from the system.
Non-Essential Amino Acids:
Alanine is a vital catalyst in the body and plays a major role in nitrogen transfer to the liver. It aids in the metabolism of glucose and safeguards against the buildup of toxic substances in muscles when protein is broken down during exercise. It is an important source of energy for muscle tissue, the brain and central nervous system and strengthens the immune system by producing antibodies. One form of alanine is a constituent of vitamin B-5. Alanine assists in the metabolism of sugars and organic acids, and some researchers have found that for some insulin dependent diabetics, an oral dose of L-alanine may be more effective than a bedtime snack in preventing nighttime hypoglycemia.
Arginine improves immune responses to bacteria and viruses and is helpful in retarding tumor growth and cancer by increasing the activity of the thymus gland, which manufactures T-cells, the crucial components of the immune system. It promotes wound healing and regeneration of the liver (good in cases of fatty liver and cirrhosis), causes the release of growth hormones and is considered crucial for optimal muscle growth and tissue repair. Seminal fluid contains arginine, and a deficiency of this amino acid may be associated with delayed sexual maturity.
This amino acid is derived from another amino acid, aspartic acid, and is required for balancing the nervous system (overly nervous or overly calm). When it is converted back into aspartic acid, it releases energy that the brain and nervous system cells require for metabolism and advances the process that transforms one amino acid into another in the liver.
Aspartic Acid helps to increase resistance to fatigue, boosts endurance (good for athletes) and is thought to ease chronic fatigue. It is beneficial for depression and plays a vital role in metabolism. Aspartic acid aids in the expulsion of harmful ammonia from the body, a highly toxic substance that can be harmful to the central nervous system as well as the liver. It is beneficial for neural and brain disorders. Aspartic acid aids the function of RNA and DNA (the carriers of genetic information), enhances the production of immunoglobulins and antibodies (good for the immune system), and helps to rid the body of toxins.
Although not an amino acid in the strictest sense, because it is not used for protein synthesis or as a neurotransmitter, Carnitine is really a substance related to the B-vitamins but sometimes called an amino acid because of its similar chemical structure. It helps transport long-chain fatty acids that are burned within cells to provide energy, producing a major source of energy for muscles, and it may also benefit chronic fatigue syndrome. Carnitine helps to prevent fatty buildup in the heart, liver and skeletal muscles. It is believed to lower blood triglyceride levels, aid in weight loss, improve sperm motility, strengthen muscles in neuromuscular disorders (i.e., muscular dystrophy), and may help to treat Alzheimer's disease. Carnitine enhances the efficacy of antioxidant vitamins E and C and helps to slow the ageing process.
Citrulline is found mainly in the liver and is derived from another amino acid, ornithine, and then metabolized to form L-arginine. It promotes energy, stimulates the immune system, detoxifies ammonia and is helpful in treating fatigue.
Cysteine and Cystine
These amino acids are closely related; each molecule of cystine consists of two molecules of cysteine joined together, and each form is capable of converting into the other as needed. They function as antioxidants and a powerful aid to the body in protecting against radiation and pollution and can help slow down the ageing process (including age spots and the ageing effects on lungs, kidneys, liver and bone marrow). They deactivate free radicals, neutralize toxins and assist in protein synthesis. Both contain sulfur and are necessary for the formation of skin, and also aid in the recovery from burns and surgical operations. Cysteine is present in alpha-keratin, the chief protein in nails, skin and hair; hair and skin, incidentally, are composed of ten to fourteen percent cystine. Cystine also aids in the production of collagen and promotes proper elasticity and texture of the skin.
Gamma-Aminobutyric Acid – GABA
Gamma-Aminobutyric Acid acts as a neurotransmitter in the central nervous system and is essential for brain metabolism, aiding in brain function. Together with niacinamide and inositol, GABA helps to prevent anxiety and stress. It acts as a tranquilizer and may be helpful for epilepsy, hypertension, depressed sex drive, schizophrenia and attention deficit disorder (ADD). Formed in the body from another amino acid, glutamic acid, GABA has been helpful for enlarged prostate, promoting growth hormone secretion and helping to control cravings for alcohol and sugar.
As an excitatory neurotransmitter that increases the firing of neurons in the central nervous system, glutamic acid is called “Nature's Brain Food" and improves mental capacities. It is converted into either glutamine or GABA and is essential for brain metabolism, as well as the metabolism of sugars and fats. Glutamic acid aids in the transportation of potassium in the body and can detoxify ammonia in the brain (by the process of converting glutamic acid into glutamine) and helps to correct personality disorders, as well as childhood behavioral disorders. It is helpful for epilepsy, mental retardation, muscular dystrophy, ulcers and hypoglycemic coma, and it is also a component of folic acid (B-vitamin).
Known as “Brain Fuel,” it is the most abundant free amino acid found in the muscles of the body. In the brain, glutamine is converted into glutamic acid, which is essential for cerebral function (and vice versa). Glutamine increases GABA, which is also necessary for proper cerebral function. It also helps to preserve proper acid/alkaline balance in the body and facilitates the synthesis of RNA and DNA. Glutamine helps clear ammonia from the tissues, especially brain tissue, where it is particularly toxic. It helps to build and maintain muscle (good for bodybuilders and dieters) and retards muscle wasting associated with prolonged bed rest or wasting diseases (cancer and AIDS). Glutamine can be helpful for arthritis, autoimmune diseases, fibrosis, intestinal disorders, peptic ulcers, scleroderma and polymyositis and tissue damage due to radiation cancer treatments. It can boost cerebral function and is thought to be useful for developmental disabilities, epilepsy, fatigue, impotence, depression, schizophrenia and senility. Glutamine enhances antioxidant protection, and because it reduces cravings for sugar and alcohol, it is used for recovering alcoholics.
Glutathione is not an amino acid (like carnitine); it is classified as a tripeptide and is produced by the body from the amino acids, cysteine, glutamic acid and glycine. Because of this close relationship, it is usually considered with them. It is a potent antioxidant that is produced in the liver and detoxifies contaminants that can be excreted in the bile. When it is released into the blood, it helps to maintain the health of red blood cells and protect white blood cells, as well as slow down the ageing process. It is found in the lungs and intestinal tract and is also needed for carbohydrate metabolism. Glutathione aids in the breakdown of oxidized fats that may cause arteriosclerosis and may mitigate the harmful effects of tobacco smoke in cells and alcohol damage in the liver. Glutathione deficiency is said to accelerate the ageing process and can adversely affect the nervous system, causing coordination, balance and mental disorders, as well as tremors due to lesions in the brain.
Glycine is necessary for central nervous system function and a healthy prostate. It works as an inhibitory neurotransmitter and can help combat epileptic seizures and has been used to treat manic (bipolar) depression and hyperactivity. It helps to trigger the release of oxygen to the energy requiring cell-making process and retards muscle degeneration by supplying creatine, a compound present in muscle tissue and utilized in DNA and RNA construction. It improves glycogen storage and is essential for the synthesis of nucleic acids, bile acids and other non-essential amino acids in the body. Glycine is used in antacids and is beneficial for healing and repairing damaged tissues. It is important in the manufacture of hormones responsible for a strong immune system.
This amino acid is rather unusual: It is the product of methionine (essential amino acid) metabolism, and high levels of this acid have been associated with increased risk of cardiovascular disease and the promotion of oxidation of low-density lipoproteins (LDL/bad cholesterols), which cause blood clotting and arteriosclerosis. However, like other amino acids, it does perform a necessary function: Normally, it is broken down quickly into the amino acid, cysteine, and other important compounds that benefit cellular energy, but a deficiency of vitamins B-6, B-12 and folic acid (or a genetic defect) can prevent this acid from converting rapidly enough, and as a result, high levels of it accumulate that damage cell membranes and blood vessels and can also increase the risk of cardiovascular disease; conversely, vitamins B-6, B-12 and folate work together to facilitate the rapid breakdown of homocysteine to protect against heart disease.
Ornithine, in combination with arginine and carnitine, facilitates the release of growth hormone, which enhances the metabolism of excess body fat. Ornithine is required for immune-system and liver function and helps to detoxify ammonia and promote liver regeneration. It is helpful for the skin, especially the repair of damaged skin and tissues. Synthesized from arginine, it is, in turn, the precursor of citrulline, proline and glutamic acid.
Proline is extremely important for the proper functioning of joints and tendons and also helps maintain and strengthen heart muscles. Proline improves skin texture by aiding in the production of collagen and preventing the loss of collagen via the ageing process. It helps to heal cartilage and works with vitamin C to promote healthy connective tissue.
Serine is a storage source of glucose by the liver and muscles and helps to strengthen the immune system by providing antibodies. Serine is necessary for proper metabolism of fats and fatty acids, the growth of muscle and is also a component of brain proteins and the protective myelin sheaths around nerve fibers. Serine is important in RNA and DNA function and cell membrane formation.
Taurine has a protective effect on the brain (particularly when it is dehydrated) and helps stabilize the excitability of membranes, which is very important in the control of epileptic seizures, hyperactivity, anxiety and poor brain function. High concentrations of taurine are found in the heart muscle, white blood cells, skeletal muscle and central nervous system, and is a building block of all the other amino acids as well as a key component of bile. It facilitates the clearing of free radical wastes. Taurine can be beneficial for arteriosclerotic edema, heart disorders, hypertension or hypoglycemia and vital for the proper utilization of sodium, potassium, calcium and magnesium and plays an important role in guarding against the loss of potassium from the heart muscle, which helps to prevent cardiac arrhythmias. Taurine and sulfur are considered to be factors necessary for the control of many biochemical changes that take place in the ageing process.
Tyrosine is a mood elevator and transmits nerve impulses to the brain, helping to overcome depression, improve memory and increase mental sharpness. It is important to overall metabolism and the precursor of adrenaline and the neurotransmitters, norepinephine and dopamine, which promote alertness and brain function and reduce hunger pangs and depression. Tyrosine promotes the healthy functioning of the thyroid, adrenal and pituitary glands and acts as a mild antioxidant. It aids in melanin production (pigment responsible for skin and hair color) and is involved in the metabolism of the amino acid, phenylalanine. Low levels of tyrosine and phenylalanine have been associated with Epstein-Barr virus, and low levels of tyrosine are associated with restless leg syndrome, low body temperature and low blood pressure.
|Other Nutrients ~ Important to the Health of Your Body
Chondroitin is one of a group of substances classified as glycosaminoglycans (sometimes called mucopolysaccharides), which are complex types of carbohydrate molecules. Chondroitin is an important element for the creation of cartilage, the tough, yet flexible, connective tissue found in the joints that cushions and protects them. Cartilage can also be found in other parts of the body, including the tips of our noses and on our outer ears. The glycosaminoglycans attach to proteins, such as collagen and elastin, forming even more complex substances called proteoglycans, an essential component in cartilage tissue. Chondroitin attracts water to the proteoglycans and holds it there, which is vital for maintaining healthy cartilage. It can also protect existing cartilage from premature degeneration by blocking certain enzymes that not only destroy the crucial cartilage, but also inhibit nutrients that can repair it.
Chondroitin Sulfate is well-absorbed (up to fifteen percent intact), and when used in conjunction with Glucosamine (another compound key to cartilage formation and repair), it is said to work even more efficiently, particularly when treating osteoarthritis. It helps to lubricate, promote elasticity and soothe joints, as well as provide pain relief in cases of arthritis without the problems associated with taking nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), which are commonly prescribed for people with arthritis. Chrondroitin is also thought to demonstrate considerably less risk of causing stomach irritation and other gastric upset than aspirin. Preliminary studies are underway to research the potential use of Chrondroitin to improve mobility in fingers, ankles, spine and fingers. Good supplemental sources of Chrondroitin are usually derived from powdered shark cartilage or cow-trachea cartilage.
Glucosamine is manufactured in the body from the simple carbohydrate, glucose, and the amino acid, glutamine, and classified as an amino sugar, which occurs in all vertebrate tissues (including that of marine creatures, from which supplements are derived). Unlike other forms of sugar in the body, amino sugars are components of carbohydrates that are incorporated into the structure of body tissues, rather than being used as a source of energy. Glucosamine is produced by the body as a building block to create protective synovial fluids and tissues around joints and is vital for the creation and maintenance of cartilage, the main tissue that cushions and protects joints during movement; and if there is an inadequate supply of Glucosamine, joint distress (arthritis) can develop. When delivered into the joint, Glucosamine binds to cartilage to help build a compound called glycosaminoglycan, the main structural component of cartilage, and new evidence claims that it may also help cells called chondrocytes produce new cartilage and renew joint function. Glucosamine is also involved in the formation of nails, tendons, skin, eyes, bones, ligaments and even heart valves.
In many clinical trials, Glucosamine has been proven to actually build joint cartilage and can slightly reduce the destruction of cartilage caused by taking nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), which are commonly prescribed for people with arthritis.
Glucosamine naturally enhances joint flexibility and motion. It is used to repair damaged arthritic joints, reduce the pain of stiff, aching joints, relieve inflamed discs, sciatica and many forms of arthritis. It is also thought to reduce the joint stress suffered by those who participate in regular, repetitive motions. When combined with Chondroitin, Glucosamine is believed to have an even greater beneficial effect on osteoarthritis.
There are several forms of Glucosamine, and the difference between various forms is simply the source from which they come and how they are stabilized, and many experts consider Glucosamine Sulfate to be the best source, because it is more easily absorbed into the bloodstream. Good supplemental sources of Glucosamine come from the shells of marine crabs, shrimp and oysters.
Glucosamine and Chondroitin were both mentioned in an article from the American Academy of Family Physicians regarding usefulness as alternative therapies for Osteoarthritis. Click the following link to read the article from the American Academy of Family Physicians' website on "Alternative Therapies for Traditional Disease States: Osteoarthritis."
Lycopene is a naturally occurring phytochemical that provides the red pigment in fruits and vegetables, most abundantly in tomatoes, but also in watermelons, pink grapefruits, guava, pomegranate and papaya. It is one of a large class of plant compounds called carotenoids. (Interestingly, the red color found in strawberries and cherries, etc., is a water soluble pigment called anthocyanin and formed by a very different pathway from the fat-soluble carotenoids). Although Lycopene is one of the lesser-known carotenoids, it is a close relative of beta-carotene, the substance that our bodies convert into vitamin A, and because it is not produced by the body, it must be acquired as a supplement. The primary role of carotenoids in plants is to neutralize compounds created during photosynthesis. These compounds (often hydrogen peroxide, or singlet oxygen, or free oxygen radicals) both attack and destroy cell membranes, ultimately damaging the cell. In humans, carotenoids act as protective antioxidants in exactly the same way, and Lycopene is considered the most efficient of all.
When humans breathe in oxygen as O2, our biological processes use it for reactions, frequently creating singlet oxygen (free oxygen radicals) as a by-product. The singlet oxygen is very reactive and, therefore, must be eliminated by the body before cell damage occurs. The body has antioxidant (anti-oxygen) compounds that look for free oxygen particles and neutralizes them, and of all the carotenoids, Lycopene is considered the most effective oxygen (free radical) scavenger, because it can neutralize several oxygen particles with one Lycopene molecule. Other antioxidants are vitamin C (ascorbic acid) and vitamin E, but unlike other nutrients, such as vitamin C, that are diminished upon cooking, processing increases the concentration of bioavailable Lycopene.
As a powerful antioxidant, Lycopene digests the free radicals that damage critical parts of the cell, including lipids, membrane lipoproteins, proteins and DNA. During normal cellular processes, extra oxygen atoms (or free radicals) are often produced and are used by the body to destroy foreign invaders like bacteria. However, if these free radicals are allowed to roam unchecked, they can cause cellular DNA to break down, mutating the cells and transforming normal cells into unhealthy and diseased cells.
There is mounting evidence that frequent intake of Lycopene is associated with reduced risk of cardiovascular disease, cancer (especially prostate cancer), diabetes, osteoporosis and even male infertility. A ccording to the National Cancer Institute, preliminary investigations of men with prostate cancer found that Lycopene supplements appear to reduce the uncontrolled growth of prostate cancer cells (proliferation) and restore normal cell turnover (apoptosis and differentiation). Moreover, in view of extensive research and articles released by the National Cancer Institute, the Prostate Cancer Foundation and the National Institute of Health, Lycopene is currently considered one of the most “prostate healthy” and efficient carotenoids for protecting against cancers and an exceptional antioxidant that shields cells against free radicals that damage healthy cells.
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