Two questions I am often asked are: “How much of a supplement” and “What type of supplementation is right for me?” Reading any “health” magazine leads one to believe we need to supplement many separate nutrients, however, not everyone needs to receive the full line of available supplements, and in some cases overuse may lead to imbalances in other areas. A comprehensive supplementation plan should be designed based on your regular dietary intake, medical history and individual constitution.
For the most part, optimum vitamin and mineral supplies should come primarily from the diet, provided it is balanced, mostly organic/locally grown, good quality and is comprised of the essential food groups I have mentioned many times in different articles. Unfortunately, if one utilizes a large amount of processed foods in their diet, some supplementation is probably necessary. Also, as one ages, there is an increased need for supplementation to protect us from chronic illnesses. In general, there is less stomach acid secreted and less absorptive ability with age, making some replacements necessary in some. The following are some of the findings form studies on elderly populations as to areas of nutrient deficiencies. Not everyone will be deficient in all these areas, but this gives you the areas to be aware.
Vitamin B 12- This aids in cell formation and cell longevity. It is also required for proper digestion, absorption of foods, prevents nerve damage, protein synthesis and metabolism of carbos and fats. Less is absorbed due to the loss of intrinsic factor. Sources are: eggs, fish, seafood, tofu and cheese. Anti-coagulant meds block the absorption. Often, this is supplemented with folic acid orally.
This is a continuation of nutrients often found to be deficient in seniors.
1. Vitamin A- This is needed for skin and mucous membrane repair, enhances immunity, acts as an anti-oxidant and contributes to eye health. It has been found to be quite low. Good sources are fresh fruits, salads, green and yellow fruits and vegetables, such as carrot juice.
2. Folic acid- This is considered brain food and is necessary for energy production, formation of red blood cells and may help anxiety and depression. This is often depleted due to prescription drug use. Sources are green leafy vegetables, salmon, whole grains, yeast and lamb.
3. Potassium- This is important for the nervous system and a regular heart rhythm, therefore aids in proper muscle contraction and works with sodium to control water balance in the body (blood pressure). Sources are fresh fruits and vegetables, fish, legumes, nuts and dairy.
4. Calcium- This is important to maintain bones and teeth, regular heartbeat, transmits nerve impulses, blood pressure and prevents muscle cramping. It can also help sleep. Loss increases due to lack of exercise and a sedentary lifestyle. Dietary intake has found to be low. Good sources are: nuts and seeds, fish, whole grains, dark green veggies and yogurt.
5. Zinc- This is necessary for prostate health, healing of wounds, a healthy immune system and collagen repair. Sources are nuts and seeds, fish, legumes, whole grains, eggs and soy.
6. Sodium- This is needed for stomach, nerve and muscle function, proper water balance and blood pH. Good sources are seafood, sea salt and milk.
7. Iron- This is important for energy production and is essential for many enzymes. It is often found to be deficient due to decreased absorption and low dietary intake. Sources are fish, poultry, wheat germ, liver, eggs, green leafy veggies, nuts and seeds and legumes.
This is the third part in the series of nutrients often found to be deficient in seniors.
8. Vitamin D- This is required for calcium and phosphorus absorption, helps prevent osteoporosis and fractures. It often low due to minimal sun exposure, decrease of absorption with the use of anti-cholesterol drugs, antacids and thiazide diuretics. Good sources are fish liver oils, fatty salt-water fish and eggs. Vitamin D can be converted from sunlight ½ hr per day 3 times per week.
9. Protein- This is needed for muscle mass, mineral and hormone transport, blood sugar stability and repair of many tissues of the body. Often total protein is low due to eating mostly carbohydrates in the diet. Good sources are tofu, eggs, fish, chicken, legumes, nuts and seeds.
Helpful Hints for Optimizing Vitamin and Mineral Intake
• When using fruits and vegetables, use as fresh a product as possible. Organically grown is preferable. If vegetable and fruit juices are preferred, those freshly prepared are best, but pre-prepared are fine up to 48 hours.
• Utilize a blender or food processor to help chop up fruits and vegetables to make it easier to digest.
• Nuts and seeds can be chopped or ground to a powder to be sprinkled on cereal, mixed in shakes or on salads.
• Fruits and vegetables on a daily basis act to maximize bowel function.
• Protein sources such as fish, chicken and tofu are better than red meat sources due to their having less fats and a wider variety of amino acids that are more easily digested and absorbed.
• Refined carbohydrates such as white sugar and flour will decrease immune function, predisposes one to diabetes and increases calcium and magnesium loss if used too frequently.
• If taking supplements, they are much better absorbed if in capsule form.