Did you know that nutrients that work in pairs? That's right. Nothing in Nature exists in isolation. We all need a best friend - a buddy who's got our back - and vitamins and minerals are the same way!
Vitamin D and Calcium
Did you know? Calcium gets absorbed into our tissues only with active involvement of several other minerals. Initially, we must have enough vitamin D to absorb the calcium through the small intestine (our gut) and bring it into the bloodstream. Magnesium and Phosphorus must be present to ensure Calcium is balanced properly in the blood. Then, you must have enough essential fatty acids to move calcium into the muscle tissues. And enough vitamin C to move it into the bones.
Official nutrition guidelines recommend that adults get 1,000 mg of calcium and 400 IU of vitamin D daily. But for most people, we can see that that's not enough. Vitamin D deficiency is widespread across the U.S. And that means a whole lot of that calcium we consume is not utilized properly.
Sodium and Potassium
Sodium and potassium are essential nutrients because they balance fluid levels across the cell membranes. However, the average American consumes WAY more sodium daily than he/she will ever need because of all the salt in processed foods. Excess sodium prevents blood vessels from relaxing and expanding, while also causing water retention on a cellular level. This can make blood pressure go up.
Potassium encourages the kidneys to excrete sodium. In this way, it counters the harmful effects of sodium surplus. Many studies have shown a connection between high potassium intake and lower, healthier blood pressure. However, you can't mix taking potassium with most blood pressure medications.
The simple message is that most of us need to have more potassium in our diets and a whole lot less sodium. The best way to do that is to have plenty of fruits and vegetables and eliminate cookies, salty snacks, fast foods, and frozen dinners.
If that seems difficult, we recommend taking Organically Bound Minerals as a great source of potassium. This is such a calming way to support yourself when you're feeling high anxiety - such as before a presentation or if you've simply packed too much into one day! Another good choice for nervous system support would be EZ Mg - a natural combination of magnesium and potassium!
Vitamin B12 and Folate (B9)
Vitamin B12 and folate work together to support some of the most fundamental processes of cell division and replication. They also metabolize homocysteine together. And folate, which is itself one of the eight B vitamins, depends on B12 to be absorbed, stored, and metabolized. All this togetherness, despite the fact that these two nutrients hail from different sides of the animal-plant divide: vitamin B12 occurs naturally in meat, eggs, milk, and other foods of animal origin, while the best natural sources of folate include hard-core veggie fare like leafy green vegetables, beans, and legumes. Fortification has blurred these lines. Breakfast cereals with added vitamins and minerals contain B12, and in the United States, by law, cereal grains are fortified with folate. Indeed, because of fortification, it's fairly easy to get the recommended amounts of B12 (2.4 micrograms) and folate (400 micrograms) by eating a reasonably well-balanced diet.
Strict vegans, who shun all animal-based products, may sometimes struggle to get enough B12. But for the most part, it isn't for lack of intake that B12 deficiency develops. It typically occurs because of shortages of substances inside the digestive system. Some people lack intrinsic factor, a protein made by stomach cells that's needed for B12 to be absorbed further down the pike, in the ileum, the end portion of the small intestine. And many older people secrete fewer of the gastric juices that break down B12-containing compounds because they have atrophic gastritis, an inflammatory condition that affects the lining of the stomach.
Folate deficiencies occur for a number of reasons, including poor diet, too much alcohol (alcohol interferes with the absorption of folate), and B12 deficiency, because folate needs B12 to be metabolized.
Deficiency in either or both vitamins may cause macrocytic anemia, a form of anemia that results in enlarged red blood cells.
Remedying a B12 deficiency can be pretty straightforward through supplementation. Even if you're low on intrinsic factor or have atrophic gastritis, the dose in the pills is often large enough (1 mg) that an adequate amount of the vitamin gets absorbed.
Folate deficiencies can be corrected with multivitamins or folic acid pills. In fact, folate from fortified food or a pill is absorbed and metabolized almost twice as well as folate found naturally in food. Similar to the B12–intrinsic factor dynamic, if you ingest large amounts of folate, some manages to get absorbed even if levels of its B12 partner are low.
There is an interesting twist to the B12-folate story. Doctors often stumble upon the existence of a B12 deficiency by finding macrocytic anemia after ordering a routine blood test. Tests for folate and B12 aren't usually ordered. When someone with a B12 deficiency takes folic acid supplements, those supplements can make the macrocytic anemia go away — or prevent it from happening. But that eliminates the most common clue to B12 deficiency, and the deficiency itself may continue. B12 deficiencies cause neurological problems, which range from mild tingling sensations to memory loss, in addition to anemia. So people live with neurological problems that might have been easily and inexpensively treated with some extra B12.
If you're just looking for vitamin B12 to help with nerve pain, go with Cataplex B12. If you need folic acid AND B12, and you know you don't have MTHFR mutations, you could go with Folic Acid B12. However, if you don't know your methylation status, we feel it's best to play it safe and use Methylfolate Plus from our Biotics web store.
Zinc and Copper
We associate copper with pennies, wire, and pans, but it's also an essential nutrient. Zinc is a little more familiar as an edible substance, partly because people take zinc lozenges in the belief that extra zinc shortens the duration of a cold (the evidence is mixed on whether it actually does). Adults are supposed to get 900 micrograms of copper daily. The daily zinc goals are 11 mg for men and 8 mg for women. Neither mineral is rare in the American food supply, so copper and zinc deficiencies don't loom large in the nutritional worriment — with a couple of interesting exceptions.
Copper and zinc compete for absorption sites in the small intestine. If there's a lot of zinc around, copper tends to lose out and a copper deficiency may develop. That's why we recommend supplementing Zinc and Copper together. Our favorite product would be Zinc Complex, which also contains some iron.
Some people in the early stages of macular degeneration, an eye condition that can lead to blindness, are prescribed a special vitamin-mineral combination, called AREDS, which has been shown to slow down progression of the disease. The AREDS pills include 80 mg of zinc, enough to cause a copper deficiency, so 2 mg of copper were added to the pills.
Another possible source of zinc overload is, of all things, denture cream. A report published in 2008 in Neurology described four cases of denture wearers with neurologic abnormalities. Their problems were ascribed to a copper deficiency from zinc exposure that came from using very large amounts of denture creams. A neurologist at Harvard-affiliated Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center diagnosed a similar case of denture cream–induced neurologic abnormality in 2009.
Niacin and Tryptophan
Niacin is one of the B vitamins (B3). These days, it's probably best known for its cholesterol effects. Large doses (500 mg to 1,500 mg per day) lower LDL cholesterol and increase HDL cholesterol. Those pharmacological doses far exceed the amounts needed for nutritional purposes. The daily niacin requirement is only 16 mg for men and 14 mg for women.
Amino acids are the building blocks of protein, and Tryptophan is one of nine "essentials" that we need to ingest because the body doesn't synthesize it on its own. Tryptophan is important for several reasons, but chief among them is its role as a supplier of Niacin, courtesy of some rather complicated metabolism. So one way to avoid niacin shortfalls is to eat foods that contain a lot of tryptophan. Chicken and turkey are high on that list.
Pellagra, now held up as the classic disease of niacin deficiency, was once thought to be caused by a tryptophan deficiency. The disease, which causes a bad rash, diarrhea, and dementia, was common in the American South in the early 20th century. How researchers traced it back to a niacin deficiency and a corn-based diet is one of the great tales of nutritional epidemiology.
Probably our highest dose of Niacin would be in Niacinamide-B6. It's well-suited for anyone working on balancing cholesterol levels!