Vitamins – briefly
In general, a vitamin is an organic (carbon-containing) substance that is essential for health, but cannot be internally produced by the human being, and so it must be found in food. Vitamins were first discovered in 1912 by a Polish biochemist, Casimir Funk. Soon after, scurvy (vitamin C) , beriberi (vitamin B1), rickets (vitamin D), pellagra (vitamin B3), and xerophthalmia (vitamin A) were recognized as specific acute vitamin deficiencies, rather than diseases due to infections or toxins. These discoveries were contrary to the “germ theory” of Louis Pasteur, another biochemist.
You require vitamins for digestion and for many other processes in the body. The word “vitamin” is a contraction of “vital” and “amine”, although not all vitamins have amines, which contain nitrogen. Funk was an excellent biochemist, but he made a mistake to assume that all of the co-factors or enzymes that we call vitamins contain nitrogen. The research into vitamins has continued since then.
Optimal for many healthy people is a mix of vitamins from a variety of vegetables, fruits, nuts, seeds, protein, teas, herbs, and spices. Healthy sources of protein are eggs, fish and meat for some, and grains, beans, and legumes for others. Dr. Abram Hoffer MD, an early advocate or vitamins, explains how vitamins maintain health. According to Dr. Peter D’Adamo ND and blood type eating, depending on your blood type, you may need certain specific vitamins more than others, or you may be more susceptible to deficiencies. Dr. Michael Janson MD explains his view of why you need vitamins.
This site is about health via food. It does not promote supplements. At the same time, this article is about vitamins, so it includes details about vitamins used by some medical doctors who treat people, using vitamins. If you look for them, you can find thousands of published studies about the use of vitamins, such as vitamin C, B3, and D. Vitamins are more effective in their natural whole-food state than in an isolated, synthesized state. If you do supplement, then I suggest using high-quality supplements from natural (vegetable or whole animal) sources, not synthetic nor substitute sources. There are many low-quality supplements on the market, such as vitamin B made from bacteria in an industrial process (not derived from plants) and vitamin D extracted from the hair of sheep and not from clean cod liver oil. Do your own research, and get to know your supplier.
It makes no sense to take vitamin supplements without first asking yourself: can modify your eating habits and absorb more from what you eat or do not eat? Are you deficient in one or another vitamin? What is the evidence to you of your deficiency? Can you get this vitamin from eating more of certain foods or less of others? Be aware that you could be deficient, but your friend, neighbor, or family member is not deficient and vice versa. It is also possible that too much of a vitamin, particularly of an oil-soluble vitamin in supplement form, can be unhealthy or even toxic for you. The key to understanding vitamins is to realize that we are each biochemically individual regarding requirements for vitamins. Your requirements can also vary with the season of the year, your activities, and your general health. It is a vast subject, and this article is merely a summary.
Individuals defy statistics, but in total the most common vitamin deficiencies may be:
- vitamin B, which is a set of related vitamins, including B1 (thiamin), B2 (riboflavin), B3 (niacin), B5, pantothenic acid, B6 (pyrodoxine), B7 (biotin), B9 (folate), and B12 (cobalamin),
- vitamin C, also known as ascorbic acid or ascorbate,
- vitamin D3, also known as cholecalciferol, which your body makes from sunlight, and which is necessary to fix calcium in your bones,
- vitamin E, which is a mix of eight molecules known as tocopherols and tocotrienols.
Physically, there are two types of vitamins – water-soluble and oil-soluble. You can easily take too much of an oil-soluble vitamin. If you take too much of a water-soluble vitamin, you pee it out, or it may cause diarrhea, which is unpleasant, but a natural “safety valve”. Where are they found? What are they used for?
The best supplements can be herbs to make tea and spices to flavor food.
The significance of water-soluble vitamins is that you tend to excrete them though your urine. In other words, if you take too much for you, you pass them in your urine. This reduces the risk of an excess and possibly increases the risk of a deficiency. Vitamins B and C are water-soluble.
Vitamin B includes a set of specific vitamins that are usually desirable as a set. An excess of one specific vitamin B can cause a lack of another. Most all, you use vitamin B to convert carbohydrates (vegetables, fruits, and starch), lipids (nuts and oils), and protein (eggs, fish, meat, beans, and legumes) to energy. You can find vitamin B in various foods and also in brewer’s and nutritional (heat-treated) yeast. Not all sources of vitamin B are optimal for everybody.
Dr. Abram Hoffer, MD, described his therapeutic use of vitamin B3 (niacin) and the side effects of vitamin B3. Remarkable is that Hoffer used a combination of vitamin C and niacin to prompt heroin addicts to kick the habit. Dr. William Kaufman MD reported on the use of niacin to treat his patients with arthritis. Dr. William Parsons MD reported on the use of niacin to control any unhealthy cholesterol deposits. For more details, read the article by Andrew Saul PhD, Be informed about B vitamins. Vitamin B is necessary for a healthy nervous system. In this six-minute video, Dr. Hoffer describes using niacin and observing ninety percent recovery from schizophrenia. In this ten-minute video, Dr. Joseph Mercola and Dr. Andrew Saul discuss research into niacin and mental illness. In this ninety-minute video, Dr. Joseph Mercola interviews Dr. Andrew Saul in detail about niacin. Dr. Saul describes the combined use of niacin and vitamin C. None of this is personal advice. I am summarizing what these doctors said, did, and observed. Do your own research and verify. If you have a medical condition, see a doctor.
You can make small amounts of vitamin B3 (niacin) from the amino acid tryptophan, which is found in bananas, spinach, sweet potatoes, nuts, seeds, and turkey among other foods.
Foods high in vitamin B1 (thiamin) include asparagus, cauliflower, oats, eggs, and sunflower seeds, among others. Good-quality rosemary is an excellent source of vitamin B6 (pyridoxine). Too much vitamin B6 can cause a lack of essential vitamin B9 (folate), which is found in dark green vegetables, such as spinach.
Vegans run the risk of becoming deficient in vitamin B12 (cobalamin), which is found mostly in animals. Some vegans may be well advised to supplement with small amounts (micrograms) of vitamin B12 in the form of methylcobalamin (not cyanocobalamin). Nutritional yeast can be a vegan source of vitamin B12. Choose your B12 supplier carefully.
Vitamin B complex can speed up your metabolism. To lose weight, some people start with a low dose of vitamin B complex. They take it with water before a meal. Do not take too much, or else you can give yourself diarrhea. I suggest that you choose to modify your eating habits first for your health, before you even begin to think of supplements. You cannot offset unhealthy eating habits with supplements, it seems to me. Vitamins B and C are synergistic.
An acute deficiency of vitamin C is known as scurvy, which caused the loss of many sailors at sea until Dr. James Lind discovered in 1747 that citrus fruits, such as limes, could cure scurvy. Since then, various other doctors have described the therapeutic use of vitamin C. Vitamin C is available in three forms:
- fresh fruits and vegetables, most of all citrus fruits,
- powder or tablets, usually though not always made from genetically modified corn, and
- intravenous (IV) liquid, administered by trained medical doctors.
If you were told that “there is no research nor studies about high doses of vitamin C”, you were misinformed. For more than eighty years, high doses of vitamin C, including intravenous administration, has been studied by Dr. William J. McCormick MD, Dr. Frederick Klenner MD, Irwin Stone PhD, Dr. Hugh Desaix Riordan MD, Albert von Szent-Györgyi PhD, Dr. Robert Cathcart III MD, Dr. Ronald E. Hunninghake MD, and Dr. Thomas E. Levy MD, JD, among others.
If you search for them, you can find more than fifty thousand published scientific studies about the use of vitamin C, according to Dr. Levy. Two-time Nobel Prize winner Linus Pauling also collected much knowledge and many observations about the use of vitamin C for health. Contrary to popular belief, high doses of vitamin C do not cause kidney stones. Such doses can be therapeutic, at least for some people, according to the aforementioned doctors.
Dr. Paul Marik MD has observed that vitamin C can cure sepsis, an infection that is found in hospitals and that cannot be controlled. Dr. Henning Saupe, MD, with the Arcadia Praxisklink in Germany, describes how intravenous vitamin C acts on malignant cells (its mechanism of action) in this one-minute video. Dr. Ron Hunninghake, MD, with the Riordan Clinic in the US, also administers intravenous vitamin C therapeutically. The clinic further describes how it works in this seventy-five minute video. Dr. Eric Madrid, MD, describes the symptoms of vitamin C deficiency and the benefits of vitamin C against anemia, colds, gum disease, clogged arteries, cataracts, and other illness.
In Europe, the authorities in certain countries appear to be restricting the availability of powdered vitamin C in bulk. It is still available in GMO-free form via Alimed in France (website in French) and Classikool in the UK. In the US, vitamin C in bulk is available from Pure Bulk and NOW Foods. This is not an endorsement of these suppliers. Do your own research, and think for yourself.
Nota bene. It is possible to take too much vitamin C. If you take too much, it has a laxative effect. Dr. Fred Klenner, MD, wrote a clinical guide to using vitamin C. Briefly, he advises that if it causes diarrhea, then reduce the dose. A laxative effect is also common to vitamin B. Both vitamin B and C are water-soluble, so you tend to excrete them through your urine, if you take too much. Based on their experience with their patients, these doctors recommend to start with a small amount, such as half a teaspoon or less in a smoothie, and then gradually increase the dose until bowel tolerance, if required. Read the references to verify the details. What does “bowel tolerance” mean? It means exactly what you think it means. Again, I recommend first considering a change in your eating habits before taking vitamin or any other supplements.
If you have been diagnosed with a medical condition, see a medical doctor.
The significance of oil-soluble vitamins is that you do not excrete them as easily as you excrete water-soluble vitamins. You store them in your liver for a longer time than water-soluble vitamins. This increases the risk of taking an excess of oil-soluble vitamins (in supplements) but may reduce the risk of deficiencies. Vitamins A, D, E, and K are oil-soluble. They are all available from food.
Do you or your loved ones ever have dental cavities? Would you like to avoid extraction, a root canal, or a filling? Dr. Steven Lin, a functional dentist, describes how you can reverse cavities in three steps, using oil-soluble vitamins and minerals in food. Do your own research and verify.
If you do not have enough vitamin A, you can go blind. To prevent this, eat foods that have vitamin A, including good-quality beef liver, cod liver oil, mackerel, salmon, and eggs. Vitamin A is more available in meat and fish, but you can also make it from vegetables, such as carrots, pumpkin, sweet potatoes, squash, spinach, and kale. Since it is fat-soluble, vitamin A is better absorbed into your bloodstream if you eat it with fat, such as nuts, olive oil, or hempseed oil. There is much research into therapeutic uses of vitamin A, which is found in a healthy balance with vitamin D. Together with iron, magnesium, and copper, vitamin A is require to produce new blood cells. Some people may require more vitamin A than others, who may require more vitamin D.
Are you deficient in vitamin D? Profuse or excess sweating can indicate a deficiency of vitamin D in some people. You need vitamin D to absorb calcium and magnesium into your bones. Vitamin D also stimulates your immune system. The recommended daily intake may be set too low for many people. If you live in a sunny climate, you can often obtain enough vitamin D by sitting in the sun as little as ten to twenty minutes per day without burning. This depends on the person, the exposure, and the duration. The darker the skin, the less it can absorb sunlight and convert it to vitamin D.
Foods that can contain much vitamin D include mushrooms, sardines, herring, salmon, eggs, and cod liver oil. It is possible but rare to consume too much vitamin D. Be aware that the origin of the isolated vitamin D in some supplements is the hair of sheep (wool).
Vitamin K is necessary for blood clotting. With vitamin D, it is also a factor to fix calcium and magnesium to your bones. It is found in kale. broccoli, cucumbers, cabbage, fermented foods, and other foods.
Note that medical doctors debate among themselves about vitamins and supplements in general. Some believe that they simply “make your urine more expensive” or are “dangerous”. Others claim that they can be useful remedies in the proper doses. Dr. Michael Janson MD responds to critics of supplements.
I take very few supplements myself, though I do occasionally experiment. For my health, good-quality vegetables, fruits, nuts, seeds, animal proteins, teas, herbs, and spices can be adequate sources of minerals and vitamins. Some supplements, particularly synthetic supplements, are not as well absorbed as fresh, local, organic vegetables and fruits. In this controversial article on GreenMedInfo, Dr. Alex Vazquez describes vitamins against viruses.
Dowden, Angela, The Pocket Guide to Vitamins, Pan Books, 2013
Janson MD, Michael, Vitamin Revolution: Seizing the Power of Nutritional Therapy, Avery, 2000
Levy MD, Thomas, “Curing the Incurable“, Livon Books, 2002, introduction, book review
Supplements Exposed – What if what you thought you knew about supplements were wrong?
Orthomolecular.org – Vitamins, sources, and functions