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Karin & David Henderson

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Maple Ridge, B.C.

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Nutritional Supplements and Meniere's Disease.  Why All Vitamins Are NOT the Same

 

In health discussions, I am frequently asked why all vitamins are not the same. They aren’t any more than other “things”. There is so much confusion and hype about “vitamins” that it might help to get some basic understanding on what can influence the differences. Three ideas that come to mind immediately are terminology, purpose and costs.

 

Generally, “vitamin” is the term that we tend to use in our everyday conversations. We could be referring to a true vitamin, a mineral or to the overall comprehensive “nutritional supplement”. Mostly likely we mean nutritional or dietary supplements, unless we are purposefully using the proper medical terminology. Here is what Mosby’s has to say about “vitamin”…”it is an organic compound essential in small quantities for normal physiological and metabolic functioning of the body. With few exceptions vitamins cannot be synthesized by the body and must be obtained from the diet or dietary supplements. No one food contains all the vitamins.” But our bodies need much more than just than just “vitamins”.

 

All supplements are not alike! All vitamins are not alike just as one coffee is not the same as another. We know they are not. We have our favorites. You can buy orange juice made from concentrate (You just need to add water). Or you can drink freshly-squeezed orange juice. Now you can buy orange juice that comes “not from concentrate”. All these choices are about orange juice, but they are definitely not all alike. If you think about diets…there are many different ones and each represent a particular purpose. So terminology is important. When you realize the importance of nutrition for your body and its source, choosing an effective product now becomes much more critical. You want value for your health investment. This is more than just going out to buy your week’s groceries.

 

Let’s look at this from the purposes of the buyer and the company. Those purposes are not the same. You need to figure out what your specific need or purpose is. Is your purpose for finding a “vitamin” just because you read something in a magazine? Is it to give you long term health support or is it to get rid of specific symptoms? Why do you want to know? Don’t you trust your information source? Have you figured out what your body is missing? How did you decide?

 

Once you realize what you are seeking, the search becomes focused and much easier. But to go to a pharmacy, health food store, or grocery store and just get a “vitamin”, because you have heard it worked for so and so, may be really counter-productive experience. (And to buy the largest container of the least expensive supplement is less than wise.) One of the most frequent comments and assumptions I get is that these products, usually herbs, are “safe” because they are “natural”.

 

Please don’t be fooled just because it seems pretty harmless and says: “natural”. Herbs, including herbal teas, are the basis of many drugs. If you don’t know what you are doing, get some reliable help.

 

Why do you want to take them? We read in magazines that we should use Vitamin E for cardiovascular health, calcium for osteoporosis, Vitamin C and zinc for flu for colds. Or you do a search for Meniere’s symptoms and could find relief with certain bioflavonoids, lipoflavonoids or Vinpocetine: a derivate of vincamine. Last week I read an article suggesting you can take all sorts of things for “inflammation”. Have you any idea what your body will do with these individual vitamins and minerals? Do you know how your body uses its nutrients and how they are shared throughout? Could you be causing some imbalance?

 

Here is a quote from Lyle MacWilliam’s Comparative Guide To Nutritional Supplements 3rd edition P: 8; http://www.comparativeguide.com/about.html

 

People are missing the point when they debate which antioxidants is the best “magic bullet”. Just like firefighters on the front line, who replenish and reinforce one another, antioxidants work best when they work together — a process called synergy. Get reliable information from trustworthy sources. There are many on the Internet. One word of caution, though The medical community is pretty shy about discussing supplementation, so be aware of how old the information that you are reading is…the author might not have access to current research when it was written.

 

Now let’s look at this from the company’s purpose. The company has a product it wants to market. Or Dr. Someone’s special formula. If the company has special knowledge which might help some people regain their health, it needs to find a way of educating people about it. I am not going to get into the political agendas of the supplement business as I find it a “no win” situation. This is simply to make you aware that all vitamins are not alike, so it is an educational article only. Constantly keep your needs in mind as you do your research. There is much to entice or distract you.

 

What influences costs? From the buyer’s needs it depends where you buy the product. Prices vary tremendously! Specialty stores or facilities will most likely handle products that require more interaction or a relationship building. I think it also creates longer loyalty because questions are answered and normally follow up is part of the purchase. If you go to larger department stores or one of the “big box” stores, there would be less support and few questions answered. Higher end product would either languish on the shelf in a superstore or not be there at all. Does that make the product desirable or not? Does cost influence the product’s ingredients? I would think it does very seriously. You pay for quality, no matter what you buy. Normally higher quality costs more money. You need to ask yourself what kind of quality you would be receiving wherever you shop. How can you evaluate? By doing your own research and finding answers to such questions as what your body requires. If you are a healthy person with no medical problems, you might want just the routine multivitamin (Meaning an appropriate mix of vitamins and minerals). But remember to read the American Medical Association recommendation on the use of nutritional supplement for adult.
http://jama.ama-assn.org/cgi/content/abstract/287/23/3127

 

From the manufacturers’ perspective, costs happen in a variety of ways. These would include certain ingredients, packaging, research, money to meet (or choose not to meet) certain standards, and a host of others. Their goal has to be very strong and viable. They will have a great deal of money invested in facilities as well. They have to do a lot of market research to discover what the public wants. Otherwise their investment is at risk. The safety “net” for you is their participation in and compliance with FDA regulations and Good Manufacturing Practices (GMP). Look for these “assurances” on the product label. One really trustworthy resource to check with is the Physicians’ Desk Reference PDR. You can free access; http://physician.pdr.net/pdrnet/librarian

 

Another excellent resource is: Lyle MacWilliam’s Comparative Guide To Nutritional Supplements 4th edition; http://www.comparativeguide.com/about.html

 

You may feel you just want to walk over to the shelf and pick up a “quality” multivitamin. Or you may choose to be educated and careful with both your money and your body. A few years ago, I had the opportunity to visit a well-known manufacturing facility. It was like the clean rooms in NASA. I was really impressed with the environment. A few months later, I happened to be in a business park of automotive specialists. The reception room doubled as the repacking center for a nutritional supplement company. The owner proudly showed me his bulk inventory, slowly scooping up the tablets in his hands. Obviously, there are many different types of manufacturers. Choose yours carefully, with insight and foresight. Be prepared to buy the level of quality that meets your health needs.

 

By Karin Henderson - Nurse, Retired.

Google+

 

Additional Resources;

 

How to Choose A Nutritional Supplement; A "Multivitamin" Safely And Wisely


Not All Nutritional Supplements Are Made Equal


Quick Vitamin & Mineral Checklist

 

Vitamins For Chronic Disease Prevention In Adults

 

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