Perhaps the Most Important Supplements

Vitamin B12, Vitamin D3, DHA/EPA

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If you have started using the Daily Dozen app you most likely noticed both vitamin B12 and D are there to track. These two vitamins are extremely important because of our modern lifestyle. These vitamins come from sun and microbes (s). People may also benefit from taking DHA/EPA from golden algae. To learn about additional supplements to consider check out Optimal Nutrition Recommendations.

When possible it’s always significantly better to obtain all your other nutrients from a whole-food plant sources and the sun. Plants are packed full of many other beneficial phytonutrients, antioxidants, and fiber. Food is a “package deal” and plants have the best package. They enable our bodies to absorb a powerful variety micronutrients and macronutrients slowly through their fibrous and complete design.

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Choose Carefully!

Too many people take way too many supplements. Obtaining nutrients in isolation (pill form) neglects many other complementary nutrients that together, from a plant source, would have a more powerful and synergistic effect.

Incomplete source vitamin supplements may also cause your body to inhibit synthesizing nutrients from more complete sources. Furthermore, supplements can easily reach toxic levels and oxidize in excess “resulting in more cancer” or have other detrimental effects (like vitamin e, vitamin A, selenium, and beta carotene). None of these issues are likely at all to occur depending on a balanced whole-food, plant based diet as a source for your nutrients.

“There’s been little or no evidence of protection against cardiovascular disease or cancers from a number of vitamin supplements, including vitamin E, vitamin C, beta carotene, and the B-vitamin trio — B6, B12, and folic acid. And in 2006, the National Institutes of Health (NIH) said there wasn’t enough evidence for a recommendation about taking multivitamins.

Now research suggesting potential harm has been added to the mix. In 2008, a Cochrane Collaboration review found that people in trials who were given supplements of vitamin A, vitamin E, and beta carotene had a higher death rate.” (s)

 

Vitamin D3

In November, 2017 I found out I am vitamin D deficient (19.4 ng/mL). That’s not “insufficient” it’s worse. Deficient is the below the lower limit of a range 30 to 100 ng/ml.

Luckily I anticipated it. I learned enough about vitamin D to pay extra for that specific test when I was having my blood work done. I knew I didn’t get enough sunshine. I should have been taking a supplement. Now I do!

It’s been a couple weeks now since I started taking daily supplements. Because I was deficient I am taking just over half the daily 2,000 IU’s (5,000) for the first couple months or so. I have noticed signficant changes already! My muscles around my neck and shoulders do not hurt anymore! I used to get so sore and stiff working at my standup desk or sleeping without my chiropractic pillow. Now all that has vanished!!!

Vitamin D is Not a Vitamin

Unlike B12, Vitamin D (cholecalciferol) is fat soluble. Also, Vitamin D is not a vitamin. Vitamin D is a fat soluble hormone produced starting from our skin being exposed to certain UVB rays. It eventually becomes two active forms when it is converted by the liver and kidneys. From there the active forms work throughout the body where receptors are found.

Vitamin D is stored in our fat during the summer when we achieve excess amounts. Then in the winter our bodies can summon up what it needs. Vitamin D is found in cells throughout the body. It helps the body absorb phosphorus and calcium from food. This is crucial for your bones and body in general.

Vitamin D Deficiencies

Vitamin D “seems to be the only supplement that will actually make us live longer”! (s) In children a vitamin D deficiency can cause rickets, where the bones get soft and bend. In adults it could cause osteomalacia, bone pain and muscle weakness. Bone disorders, various cancers, diabetes, autoimmune conditions like MS are all linked to this deficiency.

Vitamin D deficiency symptoms are vast from getting sick often, muscle weakness, depression, unexplained fatigue, weight gain, hair loss, bone and back pain, and difficulties with thinking clear. You may not even have symptoms and still be deficient. Deficiency can even lead to cardiovascular disease. Source

Estimates on how many Americans are deficient are based on different cut offs. One estimate is 40% of the population is deficient another says more than three quarters of the population is Vitamin D RDA Changed.

“Vitamin D3 deficiency can result in obesity, diabetes, hypertension, depression, fibromyalgia, chronic fatigue syndrome, osteoporosis and neuro-degenerative diseases including Alzheimer’s disease. Vitamin D deficiency may even contribute to the development of cancers, especially breast, prostate, and colon cancers. Current research indicates vitamin D deficiency plays a role in causing seventeen varieties of different cancers as well as heart disease, stroke, autoimmune diseases, birth defects, and periodontal disease.() Vitamin D3 is believed to play a role in controlling the immune system (possibly reducing one’s risk of cancers and autoimmune diseases), increasing neuromuscular function and improving mood, protecting the brain against toxic chemicals, and potentially reducing pain.()”(s)

The sun is the best way to get Vitamin D. Mushrooms are the best food source. Most people need to supplement because of their lack of UVB sunshine.

Three Sources of Vitamin D

Sunshine

Nothing beats getting enough sunshine. One amazing thing about our bodies and the sun is that the sun actually penetrates through out skin and deep into our organs. Many things happen as a result beyond just triggering the cascade of events that generate vitamin D. “Chlorophyll in our bloodstream after eating greens may react with wavelengths of sunlight that penetrate through our skin to reactivate the antioxidant Coenzyme Q10 (ubiquinol)”. (s) 

It doesn’t take a lot of sun to get all the vitamin D you may need. Just 15 to 20 minutes (with approximately 40% of the skin surface exposed) where I’m at during peak UVB season. It needs to be direct sun (when you are taller than your shadow). Not through a window. Sun screen also blocks this process. I try to expose as much skin as possible. And the skinnier you are the less sun you may need. You can find charts online that suggest when to get sun and how much based on your location. Even if you think you get out enough it most likely still very beneficial to take a D3 supplement.

If you don’t get a lot of sunshine during peak seasons and hours you may be deficient in vitamin D. Most people can’t/don’t get out during peak times. Some people are too sensitive, don’t think about it, are busy working or at school, or live where the sun just doesn’t shine enough. On those days you don’t get enough sun you may need to supplement.

Mushrooms

Mushrooms are a great source of vitamin D. What’s really cool is if you expose them to rays UVB under the sun or a light bulb for an hour you can significantly increase the amount of Vitamin D in mushrooms!

D Supplements

The best type of D vitamin is D3  (a.k.a. cholecalciferol). D3 has been shown to “extend one’s life” unlike D2 (s). The RDA depends on your age and if you have a deficiency or not. 2,000 IU’s a day is the normal dose for most people. If you’re over 50 you may need to take more. The amount for Children depend on age and other factors. My son goes to school indoors all day. He’s 13 and we started giving him 2,000 everyday as well.

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Vitamin K

K is imporant in helping D find its way to your bones. K deficiency is not common like D deficiency though. It is easy to get all the K you need through a whole-food, plant based diet. K is found in greens and cruciferous veggies like broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cauliflower, cabbage, kale, romaine lettuce, spinach, collards, green leaf lettuce, mustard greens, parsley, swiss chard and turnip greens.

Some people suggest taking vitamin K with (K2 specifically) with their D3. I have not been able to find any clear science supporting the need for supplementation. Live Science has a great article on K with some good references as well. And our favorite source NutritionFact.org supports the conclusion that K supplementation is not necessary as well, no need for Natto! (s)

Also cool to know is “1 mcg — of vitamin K for every kilogram (2.20 lbs.) of body weight. So, a person who weighs 150 lbs. (68 kg) should get 68 mcg of vitamin K a day. According to the Linus Pauling Institute at Oregon State University, 1 cup of raw, chopped kale has 472 mcg of vitamin K, or about seven times the recommended daily allowance.” So basically, just eat those cruciferous!

D Toxicity

You can take too much vitamin D. However, toxicity is less of a concern since deficiency is of epidemic proportions. The upper limits can cause various symptoms like confusion, nausea, and has even been associated with Pancreatic cancer. The upper limits for vitamin D are “1,000 to 1,500 IU/day for infants, 2,500. 3,000 IU/day for children 1-8 years, and 4,000 IU/day for children 9 years and older, adults, and pregnant and lactating teens and women” (s). The RDA of course is lower. And there seems to be a lot of controversy over the RDA. So we stay in the middle range, about.

Best Time to Take Vitamin D?

For utmost absorption take your D3 supplement with your largest meal of the day (s). Also, Vitamin D helps you absorb Calcium, which is another reason to take it with your meals.  It is best to take supplements at night since hormones are best absorbed at night.

Some people claim it disrupts their sleep taking it in the evening so they do it in the morning. While others claim it helps them sleep in the evening. I haven’t been taking it long enough at consistent times and sleeping schedules to know yet how it may effect me.

Always strive for sunshine though. The sun actually bathes your organs. The chlorophyl in your blood from the greens you eat interact with the sun’s rays to produce CoQ10. CoQ10 is found in all of your cells and used to produce energy for cell growth and maintenance. It is also an antioxidant.(s)

Vitamin B12

B12 is another one of those unique vitamins. It comes from micro organisms that blanket the earth. One of the benefits of B12 is that it helps protect the brain and arteries by lowering homocysteine.

The serum level test though isn’t necessarily an accurate indicator anyways. I had asked for the more accurate holotranscobalmin analysis. But they later said their lab doesn’t offer that test. It really doesn’t matter though, B12 is just one of the supplements most people should take.

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B12 Dosage

One 2,000 IU sublingual B12 supplement once a week is most often suggested and what I take now. Or you could take 250 IU’s a day, whichever you prefer.

It’s also good to get some from a different source, like fortified foods, in addition to the pill. I drink cashew milk daily, one serving of which is fortified with 50% B12. It’s water soluble so you really can’t overdose on it. I just take it once a week, every Sunday (check out this great video cheapest source of vitamin b12).

Cyanocobalamin or Methylcobalamin?

Cyanocobalamin is the pill of choice. It is less expensive which is cool. Researchers like that it’s cheaper as well so all the studies are done using cyanocobalamin. Therefore, methylcobalamin B12 hasn’t been adequately studied.

Where Does B12 Come From

B12 comes from the consumption of microbes, bugs, and dirt.  We used to get plenty microorganisms from our water and not washing our fruits and veggies. Now we live in such sterile environments we need to supplement our diet with B12. Our body doesn’t need a lot but you definitely don’t want to become deficient in it.

Your body makes B12 but not where it is absorbable. Eating other animals is a source of B12 but this comes with deadly consequences. So, we could resort to not washing our food and eating a few microbes here. Or we can just take a supplement.

Testing for B12

B12 is water soluble. Normally water soluble vitamins are not stored in the body. B12 however is stored in the liver. So it can store up in your body for several years only being used up a little here and there as your body needs it.

Blood work/serum levels for B12 is not an accurate indicator of a deficiency. Holotranscobalamin (holoTC) is the most accurate indicator of a deficiency (learn more here: New B12 Test).

DHA and EPA

I get plenty of the shorter chain omega 3’s from my flax and nuts. These can be converted by the body into longer chain omega 3’s. Consuming as close to a 1:1 ratio of omega 3 and omega 6 as well as limiting fat consumption helps the body convert and reach the recommended daily allowance of DHA/EPA. However, science is still not clear as to how effective conversion is for maintaining optimum health. So it’s a good idea to supplement according to NutritionFacts.org. Also pregnant and breast feeding women should definitely consider supplementing since this can improve their child’s vision and intelligence.(s) (s)

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DPA/EPA Recommended Daily Amount

250 mg of DHA and EPA a day is ideal (s) & (s). Both EPA and DHA are unique in their structure and what they do in our body. They are Docosahexaenoic Acid (DHA) and Eicosapentaenoic Acid (EPA).

Our bodies can make EPA/DHA from the shorter chain omega 3’s in flax and walnuts. It’s good to consume these whole foods daily because they help balance the ratio of omega 6 to omega 3.  The longer you’re on a whole-food, plant based diet the more your body can produce these naturally. Nonetheless, it’s still a good idea to supplement no matter what diet you’re on.

Are There Any Issues with DHA/EPA Supplements?

Some studies have shown that getting too much long chain DHA/EPA can actually lead to “a higher risk of cardiac death” and “higher risk for prostate cancer”. (s) But this may be due to the toxins in certain types of supplements, for example, fish oil which tends to have high levels of PCB’s and mercury.

As for which type of DHA/EPA supplement “everyone should consider taking plant-based (yeast- or algae-derived) long chain omega-3 fatty acid (DHA/EPA) supplements” because these are cleaner and safer than fish oil supplements. Esp.woman that are pregnant and breast feeding. (s)

Algae sources of omega 3, DHA/EPA are the cleanest source. They do not come with any of the PCB’s or other pollutants found in fish oil (see this important video). “Algae-oil omega-3 supplements currently on the market made from golden algae don’t produce neurotoxins like blue-green algae (such as spirulina, detailed here: Blue Green Algae).

Barry Spears PhD explains “if you use high-dose DHA it is essential to add back trace amounts of GLA to maintain sufficient levels of DGLA to continue to produce anti-inflammatory eicosanoids” (s). This may not be a problem with the RDA amount of 250 mg by NutritionFacts.org, I’m looking into it…

Studies have shown that long chain omega 3’s “don’t seem to help with preventing or treating heart disease”. Supplements are still recommended for brain health. (s)

What’s So Great About DHA & EPA?

EPA is great at reducing cellular and neuro-inflammation from arachidonic acid (AA). It is important to maintain high levels of EPA because it oxidizes fast in the brain. DHA does not appear to inhibit AA. But DHA does make membranes “more fluid” which is “critical for synaptic vesicles and the retina of the eye as it allows receptors to rotate more effectively thus increasing the transmission of signals from the surface of the membrane to the interior of the nerve cells. This is why DHA is a critical component of these highly fluid portions of the nerves.”

DHA also “causes the breakup of lipid rafts in membranes. Disruption of these islands of relatively solid lipids makes it more difficult for cancer cells to continue to survive and more difficult for inflammatory cytokines to initiate the signaling responses to turn on inflammatory genes. In addition, the greater spatial characteristics of DHA increase the size of LDL particles to a greater extent compared to EPA. As a result, DHA helps reduce the entry of these enlarged LDL particles into the muscle cells that line the artery thus reducing the likelihood of developing atherosclerotic lesions.” (Source “Real Differences Between DHA and EPA“)

Remember, before starting any diet always consult your physician.

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