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what they are and their common uses

  Vitamin A

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Minerals and herbal supplements

 

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Vitamins, minerals, herbs and nutritional supplements

Introduction and benefits of taking natural health supplements

Vitamins

Minerals 

Herbs

Nutritional supplements

Multisupplements

 

 

It's very important that you understand the difference of each health supplement because they provide different health benefits and some should not be taken in conjunction with one or more of the others. Some are quite safe for most people, while others may interact with prescribed or over-the-counter drugs and even some foods and should be avoided at all costs.  It doesn't mean that because something is herbal or natural that it is 100% safe for everyone, because it's not.

 

Most of us don't even come close to meeting minimum standards for daily vitamin and mineral intakes.  We often make food choices that are nutritionally poor, eating french fries rather than broccoli as vegetables, or drinking soft drink instead of milk or water.  Even with the best nutritional planning, it still may be difficult to meet minimum standards for all nutrients.

 

In Canada, manufacturers of drugs and products which receive a DIN (drug identification number) are very restricted as to the claims they can make.  However, in the US, there are few restrictions. 

 

American law states that all the claims must be "truthful and not misleading" - but manufacturers do not have to submit any data in advance of making a claim, but they should always have such evidence on hand.  American labels contain a disclaimer, a statement that claims "have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration" to satisfy the minimum requirements. 

Vitamins

 

Vitamins play an essential role in regulating cell functions and the normal metabolic functioning throughout the body.  Insufficient intake of certain vitamins can lead to vitamin-deficiency diseases.  Evidence is accumulating as more studies and research are performed that certain vitamins are antioxidants and may help protect tissues from cell damage and may possibly help prevent a number of degenerative diseases.

 

With a few exceptions (vitamins D and K) the body cannot manufacture vitamins on its own, so they must be ingested in food or nutritional supplements.  

 

There are 13 known vitamins, and are categorized as either fat-soluble (vitamins A, D, E and K), or water-soluble (eight B vitamins and vitamin C).  The distinction is important because the body stores fat-soluble vitamins for relatively long periods of time (months or even years);  water-soluble vitamins (except for vitamin B12) remain in the body for a short time and must be replenished more frequently.

 

For more information on Vitamins, please refer to the Vitamins page.

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Minerals

Minerals are present in the body in small amounts.  All together, minerals add up to only 4% of the body weight, yet minerals, which are found in the earth's crust as well as many foods, are essential for a wide range of vital processes, from basic bone formation to the normal functioning of the heart and digestive system.  As with vitamins, we must replenish our mineral supply through food or with supplements.

The body contains more than 60 different minerals, but only 22 are considered essential.  Of these, seven, including calcium, chlorine, magnesium, phosphorus, potassium, sodium, and sulfur - are usually designated "macrominerals", or "major minerals".  The other 15 minerals are termed "trace minerals" or "microminerals" because the amount that the body requires each day for good health is tiny.

 

Herbs

Herbs are not needed in your body for your body to function normally.  Herbal supplements are used to either maintain good health or treat minor health problems. 

Herbal remedies are prepared from plants, often using the leaves, stems, roots, and/or bark, as well as the buds and flowers.  Known for centuries as medicinal agents, many plant parts can be used in their natural form, or they can be refined into tablets, capsules, powders, tinctures, and other formulations to provide health benefits.

Many herbs have several active compounds that interact with one another to produce a therapeutic effect.  

Of the hundreds of remedies that are surfacing in the current rebirth of herbal medicines, the majority are being used to treat mild health problems.  Increasingly, herbal supplements are being used to attain or maintain good health - for example to enhance the immune system, to help maintain low blood cholesterol levels, or to safeguard against fatigue.  Many herbs also serve as aphrodisiacs and/or to treat a temporary lack of sexual desire, diminished sex drive or loss of libido in both men and women.

 

Nutritional Supplements

These health nutrients include a diverse group of products, such as fish oils, and are food substances that scientists have concluded possess disease-fighting potential.  Some nutritional supplements are illegal in Canada, such as DHEA (steroid hormone) which is a controlled substance (it is illegal to import or possess DHEA in Canada), while others, such as melatonin, are allowed to be imported as a 3-month supply.  Depending on the country in which you reside and regulation from the government on health supplements, your nutritional supplement access may be restricted. 

The health benefits of amino acids have been known to scientists for years.  Amino acids are building blocks for proteins, and may play a role in strengthening the immune system and in other health promoting activities.  Amino acids are available from all foods, especially legumes, dairy products, meats, fish, and poultry.

The over-the-counter sale of single amino acids is not permitted in Canada;  some are available by prescription only.

 

Multisupplements 

Multivitamin and mineral formulas are not new products.  Many herbs have been combined with others to enhance their benefits.  The most straightforward combination are herbs with similar effects, such as valerian and chamomile, both acting as sedatives.  Others include herbs that address different symptoms of an ailment, such as a cold remedy that has one ingredient for congestion and another for sore throat.

Some of these combinations can promote good health and may even save you money.  You may also find that you need to take less pills to get the same benefits.  These combinations cost less than buying each supplement separately, are more convenient to take than individual supplements, and you get the same benefits.

However, you need to be careful and read the labels closely.  Some of these combinations contain such small quantities of certain ingredients that they can't have any therapeutic effects.  They are there simply to promote the product.  It really pays to check the label to determine the amount of each ingredient. 

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