A, B, C, D, E Building Blocks for the Body

I am not a nutritionist...Let me make that clear right from the start.  I am not a nutritionist but I've been studying nutrition in some manner over the past four years because of a general desire to improve my health.  Last year, after being diagnosed as a diabetic during an emergency hospitalization for pulmonary embolisms, I began to review what I'd been learning and amped up my studies.  I knew that the lung problem was serious enough on its own but one that was taken care of by a surgical procedure.  Diabetes is a lifelong condition.  I'd been taking some vitamin supplements and somewhat changed my eating habits  over the past four years and had considerably improved my overall health, but I could tell from about February of last year that something was off.  Once my blood sugars were lowered and more balanced, I felt considerably better.  I was given insulin among other drugs while in the hospital and the endocrinologist gave me a plethora of prescription diabetic drugs to take when I left the hospital.  I was convinced however, partly through the Diabetic Education Counselor's teaching and the endocrinologist's Nurse Practitioner's cautious advice that I could EAT my way to better health and so I began to look at the tie-ins to good health and the nutritional values of foods.  For myself this proved to be the key.

I've only just begun my study of nutrition all over again this year.  I overwhelmed myself last summer with an overload of information.  I wanted to get on top of the diabetic diagnosis and bring my elevated sugars within normal ranges.   Today I take only Metformin and two or three supplements recommended by my Doctor of Osteopathy and my blood sugars are well within normal range.  My doctor urged me to add a few vitamins and supplements to my diet which are known anti-inflammatories, like cinnamon, D3, Vitamin C.

While all vitamins and nutrients are important to our bodies we must remember that nutritionally speaking it's not possible to get all vitamins and nutrients from one food or one food group.  We must eat a variety of foods and each food we eat adds to the values of the others. Think of it like those A,B,C blocks we all provided for the children to play with.  Remember how they'd stack them, one on top of the other?  That's how vitamins work:  together.   We don't just get A, B, C, and D vitamins but also E and K, and we also get selenium, iron, calcium, phosphorus and so much more when we eat across the whole spectrum of available foods.

You might think that there's little value in eating a wide variety of foods or even in eating seasonally but studies have long proven that indeed it does make a huge difference.  It's hard to believe that people might not eat well because of conflicting ideas from doctors and nutritionists but honestly, they do.  They read that butter and dairy isn't good for them, they become so obsessed with fat that they don't eat enough (it's necessary for the absorption of certain vitamins and minerals as well as the function of the intestines).  Some people avoid foods that are cultivated (think grains here) or eat gluten free (again grains) though there's actually very few people who have a gluten intolerance. And that's just due to what can be read in any magazine or best selling diet book given the current decade!   We ourselves followed a low carb plan for about four years and there's nothing wrong with that but gracious when you stand and gaze at a pile of oranges in the grocery store with tears in your eyes, honey something has to give!  

Here I'll have to go back to Granny's wisdom:  Everything in moderation.  She advised me long ago to have a little  sugar every day, to eat a little  fat every day, eat a little sodium  and to be moderate in portions.  Turns out she's exactly right. 

Vitamins are either fat soluble or water soluble.  Water soluble vitamins are easily depleted because they are not stored in the body.  Fat soluble vitamins are A, D, E and K (Vitamin K affects blood clotting. It was recommended I not eat more than my normal amounts of dark green leafy vegetables while I was on blood thinners.  Apparently the Kale diet was not needed at this time!) Water soluble vitamins are B and C vitamins.

Vitamin A is a well known vitamin for eye health.  It's also a terrific antioxidant. It's found in milk, eggs, cheese, but most popular are the beta carotene rich foods: winter squashes, sweet potatoes, carrots, apricots, cantaloupe, grapefruit and in dark leafy greens. 

Vitamin A helps build strong bones, promotes healthy skin and mucus membranes.  As with everything: MODERATION.  No one should build their diet simply about Vitamin A's.  Generally speaking ONE serving of Vitamin A daily is sufficient so if you're eating any of the above named beta carotene rich foods, then limit yourself to one serving.  That's 1/2 cup sweet potato or 1 cup of  carrots or 1 medium cantaloupe.

There are 8 essential B vitamins.  B vitamins break down carbohydrates and fats in our diet.  They promote healthy skin, hair, mouth, eyes, and liver. B vitamins are necessary for the nervous system of the body.  The nervous systems is the stuff that runs the whole show.  Think of them as the electrical lines. 

Complex B vitamins (that's all the B group) are found in brewers yeast, liver, meat, fish, fruits, leafy green vegetables, legumes, whole grains, cereals, rice, nuts, milk, eggs.  Because B vitamins are water soluble there is little risk of getting too much.  Unless you drink alcohol in excess you aren't likely to deplete your body of B6.  And just as a side note here it wasn't uncommon in those older magazines from the 1920's and 1930's to see advertisements for the benefits of adding yeast to the diet.  With meats, liver and dark green leafy vegetables not available year round it's no wonder many people suffered with a deficiency of B vitamins in those days!

Vitamin C is something we all say we need when we get a cold.  I've personally found that increased doses of Vitamin C does indeed help limit the duration of cold and flu but 'there's no evidence'...just so you know.   It is a powerhouse vitamin and that's no kidding.  Autoimmune booster, antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, promotes healthy heart, eyes, and it's a wonderful anti aging vitamin. Vitamin C ties into muscle and bone health. 

This vitamin also is a water soluble one so getting too much is not a great concern.  In fact, most doctors think we get too little because it's virtually impossible to eat enough of it.  My own doctor recommended an additional dosage daily.  Forget the recommended five servings of vegetables a day, one site even pushed the idea of nine servings of fruit and vegetables each day if you were to EAT all the needed foods to gain enough vitamin C.  Since the average American is doing great to get three servings of vegetables and fruit daily, despite the recommendations by government guidelines of 5-7, Vitamin C deficiency is a concern.   That's why some doctors recommend taking a supplement of 500 mg.   

Good sources of Vitamin C are foods that are naturally high in citrus,  broccoli, dark leafy green vegetables, and most of the red vegetables: red cabbage, tomatoes, red (and green) bell peppers. strawberries.  Other good sources of Vitamin C are potatoes (white and sweet), kiwi, winter squash, pineapple, cabbage, blueberries. 

I was not surprised to read this year that the use of sunscreen has actually caused a huge deficit of Vitamin D for many Americans.  While skin cancer is a very real concern and can be very serious, we are now being urged to not only drink our fortified milk but to sit in the sun, sans sunscreen, for 5-10 minutes just three times a week.  Choose those hours when risk of sunburn is considerably lowered.

Vitamin D deficiencies are also linked to Diabetes and Thyroid diseases, so this is obviously a key vitamin in a healthy diet. If you go online there will be a statement that there is 'not enough evidence' to support what I just said...  However, the evidence coming in from recent studies are certainly telling us why so many diagnosed with Diabetes also may have hypothyroidism. This all important vitamin also can affect bone health, nerve health, and help fight cancer.  The best sources?  Dairy, cold water fish (think Salmon and Cod), Sardines and Tuna,  egg yolks (proof that egg whites alone don't cut it in a healthy diet!),  and fortified cereals. 

Vitamin E is a fat soluble  vitamin.  It is found in nuts, vegetable oils, green leafy vegetables and fortified cereals.  It is an antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, promotes healthy skin, heart, eyes.  Most doctors do not recommend taking a Vitamin E supplement because it is most readily absorbed from foods containing it and deficiencies of this vitamin are rare.  Dosage requirements are actually low, but necessary all the same.

So there's some basic knowledge for you.  Did I learn anything during the work I did on this post?  Yes, I did...My doctor has recommended we take a low dose Vitamin E pill each day but we typically eat a healthy balanced diet and I think I'm going to leave that supplement off in the future.   There appears to be little need for it and no real benefit to taking the supplement.    I also learned that indeed, while some foods are higher in certain vitamins than others eating the rainbow of colors truly does merit good health overall.  

I plan to continue this series so look for posts in the coming days/weeks. 


Louise said...

Thank you for this series... I have learned a lot and having diabetes I've done a bunch of research as well.. one can never learn too much.. Now that my daughter has also been diagnosed I'm doing even more reading about it.

Anonymous said...

Thank you for this post and I will be looking forward to any others. I remember you saying you were studying again. Did you ever decide if one of the diabetic magazine subscriptions over all seemed better than the other? I get a diabetic magazine off and on at Sam's but they don't have them as often as they used to. Hubby is still doing good with his diabetes but does not eat many veggies. Unless they are in his soup.
I like now they don't scare you so much on how to eat if you are put on blood thinners. People still worry them selves sick thinking they can't eat this or that ever again. We were told to just eat as you always did. If you are used to a big salad and veggies every day..still do it. If not then don't start going over board on greens or certain thing now but eat them in moderation. The tests they give you first to find out your blood levels were when you were eating that big salad and such or whatever you were used to eating. They go by that one to evaluate how much thinners to give you at first and fine tune it over months if needed to find out/just what levels work for your own body. That made sense and communication with your anticoagulation team and testing kept things going smoothly since. I only added that in case it helped someone.
Also we were told the same goes for vitamins you took before being diagnosed and needing blood thinners. They were also in your system as you were first being tested.
The anticoagulation department said to stop this and that vitamin..and yes some were the types that can thin the blood. But his heart specialist said that he wanted him on these vitamins anyway and he said it was the anticoagulation departments job to keep his blood the right levels and he still taking them. So they relented and he still takes those vitamins. Everything worked out and it has been years he has been on them. Health is a serious thing and study and advice from a good doctor is needed. Also we know our own body and can feel at times when something is off and should be checked on so don't put off mentioning what you think is an odd symptom to your doctor. Thanks Terri for the good lesson! Sarah

Lana said...

I took Vitamin E daily for 20 years for pain in my veins in my legs. Every time I tried to stop it the pain would come right back. I was very thankful for the retired missionary lady who did research on my pain and made the recommendation. Now I know that it was infection on my legs that caused the pain and after treating that with essential oils I was able to stop the Vit E. Other than that I know of no real need to take supplements just as you say.

Anonymous said...

Type 2 diabetes can be controlled. 16 years ago i was diagnosed with a very serious case of diabetes. It scared me enough that i took it seriously. In 3 months I brought my level down to normal and have kept it there for 16 years. I really watched everything i ate aalmost no sweets, small amounts of fruits and lean protein.I started walking 3 miles everyday and lost over 30 pounds in 3 months until my body found a good weight for me. I have kept my weight the same for 16 years. If i gain 1 pound, i lose it. About the only time I have sweets is if i go to a friends home i will have a small amount to be sociable, so i am not really deprived. Not only has my body benefitted butso has my budget. No up and down clothes sizes, less spentvon groceries, mostly avoid the snack aisle. I do keep a few tiny bite candy bars for when nothing else will do and i only eat one. Yes, with a lot of persistence it can be done! I know too people many with diabetes who are always diving into donuts,eating until they are stuffed, don't exercise and moan that they can't lose weight. Gramma D

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