Saturday, July 28, 2018 3:35:15 PM
What Are You Eating?

Good Health is a gift. Let’s be honest, we often take our good health for granted and don’t get alarmed until we begin to lose it.

When our health begins to decline, we usually look at our diet and physical activity. Working as a Nurse for over 35 years I have witnessed the resilience of the human body. In spite of how we may treat our bodies, the Creator has designed the human body so that it is a finely tuned instrument that can endure fractures and adhesions, constant pain and great stretches of the tiresomeness.

Although the body is finely tuned and resilient, it is a fragile instrument because it is not built to handle tremendous excess, whether in the form of nourishment, fuel, or additives. The body can strangle and even choke on poisons when ingested in endless doses and mistaken for fuel. The body though it has moving, feeling and thinking parts, it can be abused and misused. God has provided us with an “owner’s manual” that tells us how to operate the human body.

How balanced is your diet? Would you consider it to be a healthy diet?  It is a fact that the healthiest diet cannot guarantee you are getting the essential nutrients you need.  The reality is that most of our soils are depleted. A great deal of our foods are processed before our fruits and vegetables are picked before ripening thus robbing them of their complete nutritional benefits.

As we get older, this becomes increasingly a concern because the problem is magnified. Absorption and assimilation of many of the vitamins and minerals becomes more and more difficult which is extremely critical to our physical condition and wellbeing. Experts in the field of Integrative Medicine state that a lack of vital nutrients contributes to heart disease, diabetes, fatigue, poor memory, creaky joints, and many, other signs and symptoms, that are often attributed to the aging process.    Let’s look at the most common nutrient deficiencies to avoid.

Vitamin B12

Research reveals that up to 30 percent of Americans over 50 years old has a vitamin B12 deficiency.  The cause of this problem is the decreased production of stomach acid.  This reduces the absorption of this vitamin.  Why is this a problem?  Vitamin B12 is critical for physical and mental energy.  The deficiency can cause an array of conditions such as memory loss, Parkinson disease, dementia, Alzheimer’s disease.

As a Registered Nurse, completing thousands of nursing assessments over the years, I am always in tune to the signs and symptoms of the disease process. It was challenging and on the other hand interesting to witness various signs and hear an array of symptoms setting the stage for the ongoing learning process of various diseases and conditions. For example, some of the symptoms of a vitamin B12 deficiency are: fatigue, weakness, heart palpations, shortness of breath, depression, and paranoia.  This is a good example of the importance diet and nutrition plays in the overall care of individuals.

Vitamin D

Nutrition experts report there are about 90 million Americans suffering from a deficiency in Vitamin D which is a result of too little sun exposure or an inability to synthesize the vitamin from sunlight.  I did not know that I had this deficiency until my Primary Care Physician tested my Vitamin D level. This was based on me having some weakness in my leg muscles when getting out of bed.  This was most noticeable in the mornings and often associated with some lower back pain.  Yes, the test results revealed that I had a Vitamin D deficiency and I was provided information and recommended a particular dose of vitamin D.

During the warm months, our bodies synthesize Vitamin D when we are exposed to the sun with sunscreen. Remarkably, Vitamin D affects more than 1,000 genes and more than 30 tissues in the body.  It is necessary for healthy bones and the resistance of viral and bacterial infections.  This vitamin is necessary for normal heart function, healthy levels of blood pressure and muscle strength.  There are usually no obvious symptoms with mild deficiency of Vitamin D.  There are small amounts of this vitamin added to some foods.  Many people need additional doses of Vitamin D to reach optimum levels for a healthy lifestyle.


Magnesium is also needed for an adequate and healthy life-style. There is at least 50% of the population deficient in magnesium. Low levels of magnesium are linked to high blood pressure, diabetes, heart attacks and other heart problems, migraine headaches, cramps, depression, asthma, osteoporosis and colon cancer.  Some of the main causes for this deficiency is poor absorption, too much calcium, salt, and heartburn medication.

In regards to age, the risk of magnesium deficiency increases for several reasons.  The digestive system becomes less efficient at absorbing the mineral and some foods can interfere with proper absorption.  Lack of protein may also reduce absorption. Magnesium is necessary at the appropriate level for keeping the heart rate and also the blood pressure normal.  Your Physician will advise you regarding when you blood levels for magnesium should be checked and monitored.

Omega-3 Fatty Acids

The prevalence of a deficiency in the older population causes 96,000 deaths each year.  This fatty acid is obtained for an adequate supply of the right kind of fish.  It protects the body against most prevalent chronic diseases and premature aging by reducing harmful chronic inflammation.  The Omega-3 Fatty Acids are essential to our health. When there is not an adequate intake the body does not have the proper protection needed to prevent disease.  Low-grade chronic inflammation fuels heart disease, arthritic pain, diabetes, obesity, neurological problems, poor sleep, and skin conditions.

The two main components of fish oil are EPA and DHA. Your Physician or Nutritionist will guide you as to the amount and what form of fish oil supplement to take. The best fish that is high in omega-3 and low in mercury is salmon, herring, and sardines.  There should be at least 2 serving each week, broiled, or baked for healthy eating.

Research at the Rhode Island Hospital found that the brains of older adults who took fish oil, which contain omega-3 fatty acids, suffered significantly less cognitive decline and brain shrinkage.  A recent study in the “FASEB Journal” published by the Federation of American of Societies for Experimental Biology – found that fish oil reduced brain inflammation and the build-up of amyloid plaque, a hallmark of Alzheimer’s disease.  It also has been noted to help people who have mild cases of Alzheimer’s disease.  Physicians are considering using omega-3 fatty acids more and more because the current medications for the treatment of Alzheimer’s are not very beneficial.

To maintain good health, the body needs proper nutrition which includes the right supplements. Nutritional supplementation can make a dramatic impact on our health and quality of life when done right. You may feel that you are doing everything right, and you are asking the question; why would I need to add supplements?

Let’s say you are eating a primarily healthy and whole-food based diet, decreased your stress levels, increased your exercise, and getting adequate sleep. Why is this not enough to safeguard you and that you are on the path to a healthy existence? 

Over the past decade, science and healthcare researchers have paid increasing attention to the role of nutritional supplements as possible dietary components with roles in preventing and treating chronic disease.

I currently take nutritional supplements that have credibility with 3rd party validation.  For me the reality is, that even when we’re very meticulous about eating a well-balanced diet, we can often fall short nutritionally.  Although a balanced diet should provide adequate nutrition for optimum healthy living, it is often deficient.  Unfortunately, there’s a whole host of modern day environmental and lifestyle issues that make it much harder than it was for our ancestors.  Many nutritional supplements have been proven to prevent or aid in the treatment of health conditions like high cholesterol, arthritis, birth defects, and cancer. Let’s look at what specifically has changed and how this influences our need to take supplements.

Nutrition and wellness expert Renée Leonard-Stainton gives you 10 excellent reasons you should consider taking nutritional supplements to improve the quality of your health and life. Quite simply, nutritional supplements are just what the name suggests; supplementary. We can’t make up for poor dietary habits, a negative attitude, a lack of exercise and poor sleep by taking pills, whether the pills are drugs or nutritional supplements.

1.    Soil depletion reduces the nutrient content of crops. Our fishing and farming methods have drastically changed. In many areas of the world, land has been intensively farmed without allowing nutrients to naturally replenish in the soil. Some areas with low quality soil are also being farmed where plants might not have normally grown well.

2.    Hybrid crops can provide lower nutrient foods. They yield more food per acre, but the crops often have much lower nutrient content.

3.    Modern fertilizers don’t supply enough trace elements Back in the day, manures were used extensively for fertilizer. Today, superphosphate fertilizers have largely replaced manure. These contain nitrogen, potassium, and phosphorus, but are deficient in many other nutrients naturally contained in manure.

4.    Pesticides and herbicides damage soil microorganisms and reduce the nutrition of the crops. Our bodies require extra nutrients to process pesticide residues that remain inside the foods.

5.   Long-distance transportation of many foods diminishes their nutrition. As soon as food is harvested, the levels of certain nutrients begin to diminish. It can be weeks between when the food was picked, transported, packed, stored, and then finally eaten.

6.    Food processing often drastically reduces nutrient content. For example, the refining of wheat to make white flour removes approximately 80% of its magnesium, 70-80% of its zinc, 87% of its chromium, 88% of its manganese, and 50% of its cobalt. Similarly, polishing rice removes about 75% of its zinc and chromium.

7.    Food additives can further deplete nutrients. Artificial flavors, colors, stabilizers, and preservatives are added to a large proportion of foods available. While some are harmless and may even increase the quality of food by preserving it, many are toxic and can deplete the body of nutrients.

8.    Weak digestion and poor eating habits impair the absorption of nutrients. Digestion issues are one of the most common health complaints today. People with impaired digestion often don’t absorb nutrients sufficiently, which further increases nutritional needs. Therefore, when trying to balance nutritional deficiencies, the initial focus should always be on correcting gut health and supporting digestion.

9.    Stress. Being under a lot of stress can deplete many nutrients including calcium, magnesium, and zinc. Among other implications, stress reduces digestive strength. This, in turn, reduces nutrient absorption and utilization even further. It’s not always external factors that contribute to deficiencies!

10.  Unhealthy lifestyle habits. If you drink alcohol, smoke heavily, live in a polluted city or are pregnant, premenstrual, on the pill, your nutritional needs can increase greatly. There are foods and habits that can strip the body of nutrients that we should be mindful of, and we should try and limit (if possible):

Smoking and drinking alcohol: Depletes the quantity of vitamin C in the body. Smokers generally need twice as much vitamin C intake as non-smokers to maintain comparable blood levels.

Drinking coffee:  A cup of coffee can cut your iron absorption to 1/3 of normal.

Taking pharmaceutical drugs – Aspirin increases the need for vitamin C. Paracetamol increases the need for antioxidants, like vitamins C, and E and selenium. Antibiotics increase the need for B vitamins and probiotics (beneficial bacteria) Hormone replacement therapy (HRT) and birth control pills increase the need for vitamins B6, B12, folic acid and zinc.

Minute but mighty, micro-nutrients (minerals and vitamins) play a BIG part in good health. The amount of minerals and vitamins we need may be small compared to macro-nutrients such as proteins, carbohydrates, and fats, but their influence on our wellbeing is huge. In an ideal world, we wouldn’t have to supplement our diets to get health enhancing amounts of vitamins and minerals, but the nature of modern living is such that most often this is not the case nowadays.

Remember, you should always consult a qualified health professional first to avoid any drug-nutrient conflicts and avoid supplements with sweeteners, colors, artificial flavors, preservatives, or fillers. Children should always take supplement formulas designed for their age and needs too.

*By Barbra Gentry-Pugh

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