Vitamins

VITAMIN A (retinol)

Vitamin A and the carotenes are antioxidants that scavenge and destroy harmful substances called free radicals that cause cell degeneration and age the body generally. It is a fat soluble vitamin with anti–infective properties and is essential for the regeneration of rhodopsin (visual purple), the light sensitive pigment found in the rods of the retina (hence its name of retinol). The high sensitivity of rhodopsin allows vision in dim light so a diet rich in vitamin a will ensure good night vision and protect the eyes generally against infection and drying. Vitamin A is responsible for regulating secretions from mucous membranes such as those in the respiratory, urinary and digestive tracts and also helps maintain healthy skin. It also balances the action of osteoclasts (bone ‘eaters’) and osteoblasts (bone 'builders') thereby ensuring the development and maintenance of strong, healthy teeth and bones. It is needed for maintaining the senses of smell and taste also. Vitamin A is found as its active form retinol in animal products, and in plant foods as the precursor carotene. Carotene is converted into the active vitamin A in the walls of the small intestine. It can be stored as retinol in the liver for many months and is not easily excreted from the body therefore supplementation should be avoided as excess can cause unpleasant side effects. Vitamin A excess from plant sources (as the carotenes) does not produce toxicity because the carotene is only converted to retinol as and when it is needed but can cause the skin to turn temporarily yellow. Symptoms of deficeincy can include night blindness and even total blindness, dry skin, increased chance of infections in the upper respiratory tract, ear and sinuses, poor bone growth, increased cavities, loss of teeth enamel and a diminished or loss of taste and smell. Vitamin A absorption is reduced by alcohol, mineral oil, cortisone, flourescent lights, liver cleanses coffee, excessive iron intake and lack of protein. The RDA is 1 – 2 mg.

SOURCES OF VITAMIN A

GREEN LEAFY VEGETABLES such as celery leaves, alfalfa, kale, parsley, spinach, watercress, seaweeds etc. Dandelion leaves are extremely high in vitamin A as is chorella and algaes.

ORANGE/YELLOW VEGETABLES such as carrots, pumpkins and sqaushes, sweet potatoes, sweetcorn, sweet peppers.

YELLOW FRUITS like bananas, apricots, peaches, cantaloupe melon, papaya, and mangoes.

AMARANTH the seeds and leaves of this grain.

CAROB

HERBAL SOURCES gotu kola, peppermint, yellow dock, red raspberry, nettle, comfrey, elderberries.

VITAMIN C (ascorbic acid)

This vitamin has had much publicity recently and has earned the reputation of being a ‘super’ vitamin. Much focus is placed on its role within the immune system where it aids recovery and resistance to all diseases and helps the body to renew itself. It has a vital role in the production of collagen, which is a component of connective tissue and as such is responsible for the speedy healing of wounds ranging from cuts to broken bones. Extra vitamin C is needed when ageing for the continued formation of new collagen and can even prevent the signs of old age ie. shrinking stature, tooth loss, wrinkling and loss of skin elasticity, slow healing etc. This is not to say that you will not age but that you will age healthily ! Vitamin C is most highly concentrated in the adrenal glands where it is an important ingredient in adrenaline. This means that stress of any kind strips large quantities of vitamin C from the body so in times of stress this is a useful vitamin to search for and increase in the daily diet. It is an anti-oxidant, cleaning up free radicals and also reduces the effects of harmful environmental pollutants and others such as tobacco, antibiotics, the ‘pill’ and steroids. It also facilitates the absorption of iron within the gut so can help in conditions like anaemia, and assist in other times when extra iron is needed. Cholesterol levels can be reduced by vitamin C as it helps transform the cholesterol into bile acids which are then easily excreted from the body. Vitamin C is a water soluble vitamin so can be lost from food if cooked in water above 100 c for more than a few minutes and is also destroyed by tobacco and alcohol, coffee, stress, infections and injuries, ageing, burns and high fevers. The RDA is from 100g.

SOURCES OF VITAMIN C

DARK LEAFY VEGETABLES some of these contain nearly 3 times more vitamin C than citrus fruits eg. kale contains 160 mg per 100g. Other excellent sources include brussels sprouts, cabbage, cress and watercress, swiss chard, collard leaves, chives, parsley, dandelion leaves.

BERRIES also contain have a high vitamin C content including blackberries, blueberries, blackcurrants, rosehips, cranberries, hawthorn berries, raspberries and elderberries.

FRUITS such as kiwis, strawberries and citrus fruits – lemons, limes, oranges, grapefruit etc.

VEGETABLES broccoli, cauliflower, sweet peppers, peas, onions, leeks.

HERBS include cayenne pepper, horseradish root, elderberries, hawthorn berries, rosehips.

For comparison:

Blackcurrants 300mg per 100g Parsley 200mg per 100g
Rosehips 460mg per 100g Citrus fruit 60mg per 100g
Green peppers 150mg per 100g  

VITAMIN D (calciferol)

Vitamin D is nicknamed the sunshine vitamin as it is produced when the ultra violet rays of the sun react with a naturally occurring chemical within the skin. Vitamin D increases the absorption of calcium and phosphorus from the intestinal tract and regulates the metabolism and blood levels of them. Less vitamin D is produced in the elderly due to changes in their skin structure. Deficiency causes a reduction in calcium and phosphorus, which can eventually lead to a drop in bone density. The body has few effective ways of excreting it so supplementation is not normally necessary, especially when an excess of vitamin D can promote the growth of localised calcium deposits in the kidneys, heart and arteries. The RDA of 10 micrograms can be obtained from a few minutes of sunlight on the skin . Herbal sources include alfalfa and nettles and it is also present in mothers' milk.

VITAMIN K

This fat soluble vitamin is needed by the body to ensure normal blood clotting functions. It increases the availability of haemoglobin therefore decreasing the risk of haemorrhage. Straightforward deficiency is rare because it can be manufactured by intestinal bacteria but may result from conditions such as diarrhoea or bile duct obstruction. Between 70 and 140 micrograms are needed daily by adults and body levels are decreased by pollution, radiation, rancid fats, antibiotics and aspirin.

SOURCES OF VITAMIN K

It is widely distributed throughout nature but the richest sources are:

DARK LEAFY VEGETABLES especially kelp, alfalfa sprouts and nettle.

VITAMIN E (tocopherol)

The word tocopherol comes from the Greek language meaning ‘to bring forth offspring’ and has the reputation for amongst other things having an anti-sterility action and being capable of preventing spontaneous miscarriages. If the (fathers') body is well supplied with vitamin E several months prior to conception it can prevent birth defects in couples that are prone. It is a powerful anti-oxidant, inhibiting oxygen from combining with fatty acids to form damaging cell killers called free radicals – and as such is very important to ensure all round good health and energy. Vitamin E works alongside vitamin C to battle against the ‘symptoms’ of ageing and defend the bodys wellfare. It is essential for a healthy functioning immune system, protects the red blood cells from premature destruction and improves the action of insulin. It also has an action on the skin that promotes cell regeneration and scar free healing. Vitamin E is shown to help prevent cardiovascular diseases such as thrombosis and atherosclerosis, it dilates and strengthens blood vessels and capillary walls improving tissue circulation aiding in conditions such as varicose veins, ulcerated wounds and in the prevention of gangrene. Vitamin E can be depleted by mineral oils (petroleum jelly etc), oral contraceptives and tap water. Deficiency is unlikely due to its widespread distribution in natural foods. The RDA is 10 – 15mg.

SOURCES OF VITAMIN E

UNREFINED WHOLEGRAINS as up to 90% is lost during processing. Grains are particularly rich in Vitamin E when they have been sprouted.

OILS particularly wheatgerm, borage, evening primrose, corn and sunflower oils.

NUTS AND SEEDS especially when sprouted but also in products such as tahini.

LEAFY VEGETABLES watercress, seaweeds, alfalfa, dandelion leaves etc. and other vegetables like peppers, carrots and avocados.

LEGUMES

HERBAL SOURCES rosehips, red raspberry, dandelion leaves.

VITAMIN B COMPLEX

The B vitamins are a very important group and play a central role in the metabolism and utilization of carbohydrates in order to provide the body with energy and are also of great importance to the nervous system. They tend to be found in more or less the same food groups and are water soluble.

B 1 THIAMINE

This vitamin is of great importance to carbohydrate metabolism and its RDA is therefore linked to daily calorific intake (0.5 – 1mg per 1000 calories consumed). Long term deficiency leads to Beri Beri disease that most affects those tissues requiring large amounts of carbohydrate, namely the nervous and cardiac tissues. Beri Beri literally translates as 'I cannot, I cannot' and indicates the lack of ability to move and the extreme weakness involved. Less drastic deficiency can bring about mental confusion, poor memory, a reduction in learning abilities and thoughts of persecution. B1 (as are many of the B vitamins) is depleted by processed sugar and junk foods, alcoholism, narcotic drugs and coffee. Cooking foods for long periods also destroys the vitamin. B1 is not stored in the body so a daily supply is needed.

SOURCES OF B 1 THIAMINE

Intestinal bacteria in a healthy bowel also manufacture B1.

WHOLEGRAINS B1 is found particularly in the outer and germ layers of grains.

BREWERS YEAST & YEAST EXTRACT

GREEN LEAFY VEGETABLES especially seaweeds and spirulina algae.

PULSES & NUTS

HERBS such as carob seeds, dandelion, alfalfa, fenugreek, parsley, red raspberry, red clover.

B2 RIBOFLAVIN

This is also involved in the release of energy from carbohydrates and is important in the manufacture of red blood cells and the maintenance of healthy skin, mucous membranes and eyes. A deficiency can cause depression, visual disturbances, disordered thinking and an inability to concentrate and also cracks at the corners of the mouth, inflamed tongue and gritty eyes. It is depleted by the same things as for B1 and also by calorie controlled diets. The RDA is 0.6mg per 1000 calories consumed with more needed in pregnant women.

SOURCES OF B2 RIBOFLAVIN

As for vitamin B1 plus:

BROCCOLI & CABBAGE

HERBS saffron, eyebright, gotu kola, rosehips, peppermint.

B3 NIACIN

This too plays a part in carbohydrate metabolism but also facilitates fat metabolism, the production of fatty acids and steroids. It has a dilating effect on blood vessels increasing blood flow to the brain in particular and larger amounts reduce cholesterol levels and prolong clotting times. B3 assists the smooth functioning of the nervous system and helps to maintain healthy skin, adrenal glands and appetite. Deficiency , if severe, can lead to pellegra which is characterised by diarrhoea, dermatitis, depression and dementia. It can also manifest as anxiety, unreasonable fears and even schizophrenia. The RDA is 6.5mg per 1000calories.

SOURCES OF B3 NIACIN

Some niacin can be manufactured in the body from the amino acid tryptophan.

WHOLEGRAINS except corn/maize

SEEDS & NUTS especially peanuts

PEAS & BEANS

VEGETABLES like broccoli, cabbage, collards, tomatoes, avocados, and globe artichokes.

FRUIT such as dried figs and prunes and bananas.

BREWERS YEAST

HERBS hops, feverfew, gingko, slippery elm, dandelion, alfalfa, parsley, red raspberry, eyebright.

B5 PANTOTHENIC ACID

Pantothenic means 'from everywhere' as it is so widely distributed within the plant world. It is needed for the production of fats, steroids and cholesterol. It is helpful to the adrenal glands and assists in the production of antibodies. Deficiency is rare but increased levels are useful to boost resistance in allergic states, asthma, infections and feelings of hopelessness.

SOURCES OF B5 PANTOTHENIC ACID

It is widely distributed and is found in the same foods as for the other B vitamins plus also in oranges.

B6 PYRIDOXINE

Vitamin B6 is active in the metabolism of proteins, carbohydrates and fats, aids the synthesis of haemoglobin and red blood cells and also assists in the manufacture of B3 from the amino acid tryptophan. It has a role in the production of antibodies and possibly aids the thymus gland (a site of immune activity). Deficiency can produce anaemia, dermatitis around the mouth and eyes, depression and confusion, insomnia and a lowered resistance to infection. Oral contraceptives, fasting, constipation, tobacco, radiation, pregnancy and lactation, coffee, alcohol, narcotics, ageing and the drug isoniazid deplete it. The RDA is 2.5mg, more during pregnancy, in alcoholics and elderly.

SOURCES OF B6 PYRIDOXINE

As with other B vitamins especially green vegetables plus also:

LEGUMES particularly soya beans and its products.

YELLOW CORN, PRUNES AND MOLASSES

It is also produced within a healthy bowel.

B9 FOLIC ACID

This is needed for the proper functioning of vitamin B12, the formation of red blood cells and also helps keep the nervous system healthy. It is an essential nutrient for pregnant women as it prevents the occurrence of spina bifida in babies. Deficiency can cause anaemia. The RDA is 0.5mg, more during pregnancy.

SOURCES OF B9 FOLIC ACID

The word folic derives from 'folia' meaning leaves and as such it is found in all leafy vegetables and also in:

BEETROOT, BROCCOLI, PARSNIP, SPROUTED BEANS AND SEEDS

WHOLEGRAINS

FRUIT

HERBAL SOURCES parsley, dandelion leaves.

Healthy intestinal bacteria also contribute to the bodys folic acid requirements.

B 12 CYANOCOBALAMIN

Vitamin B 12 is most needed in the tissues actively involved in reproducing ie. the intestinal tract and blood cell making bonemarrow and also in the nervous system. It assists in the normal functioning and growth of all body cells and prevents cell degeneration. Deficiency causes anaemia with loss of appetite, tiredness, weakness, and irritability and if severe can lead to the degeneration of the nervous system. It is needed in very small amounts (3-4 micrograms) though it is known that it can be stored for many years in the liver and that reabsorption from the intestines is efficient. There is much controversy amongst nutritionalists over the sources of B 12, some insisting it can only be found in animal foods while others say ther are several plant sources also. The original biological source is bacterial fermentation in the intestines of animals. Some total vegans have been shown to have normal B 12 blood levels after many years on their diet whilst others have not. Children have a low capacity to store the vitamin and the elderly have a greater storage capacity. B 12 levels are depleted by coffee, tea, alcohol, processed sugar and all the usual B vitamin depleters.

SOURCES OF B 12 CYANOCOBALAMIN

B 12 producing bacteria exist all around us in nature, in healthy intestines and on organically grown vegetables, grain and fruit. It is also believed to be present in brewers yeast, miso and possibly other fermented foods, chorella and spirulina algae, alfalfa and seaweeds such as kombu and hijiki.

HERBAL SOURCES comfrey and also chaste tree is said to increase B 12 in the body.

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