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A Healthy Handful of Pills

Many judge the status of their health by the number of medications they are taking.  The fewer, the better.  Obviously this can lead to some erroneous conclusions.  While we cannot drug ourselves to good health, we can be proactive about optimizing our nutritional status. Here are five “pills” that everyone should be taking.

1) EPA/DHA:  Also known as Omega 3 Fatty Acid or “Fish Oil,” this essential fatty acid is a strong anti-inflammatory.  Since inflammation is responsible for all types of degenerative disease, this supplement has been implicated as being beneficial for problems ranging from arthritis to eczema.  In fact, scientific trials have demonstrated EPA/DHA to be effective for treating arthritis pain, decreasing cardiac disease risk factors, and lowering cholesterol.  If an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure, 3 grams of EPA/DHA is worth a cure for heart disease, knee replacements, cholesterol problems…

2) Multivitamin:  No; it’s not too easy. The single source of a myriad of essentials should not be overlooked.  Even with the healthiest of diets, micronutrient deficiency can occur in the absence of a multi-vitamin.  This is because the soils in which foods grow have become depleted from minerals and micronutrients.  While scurvy and beriberi are diseases found only in history books, current problems of micronutrient deficiency include cardiovascular disease, neurological developmental problems, and DNA damage.   A standard multivitamin has the right dose for most people.  Also, all women of child bearing age should intake 800 micrograms of folic acid per day.  That dose may require her to take an separate folic acid tablet.

3) Calcium: There are several forms of calcium one can take.  If calcium cannot be absorbed from the gut it is useless for our body.  Calcium as a mixture of hydroxyapatite and dicalcium phosphate is the most useful to the body.  Calcium is integral for developing and maintaining strong bones.  Unfortunately, despite many foods being fortified with calcium, 1 in 5 older adults will develop osteoporotic fractures at some point.  Preventing fractures with nutrition should start in one’s youth, and involve all 5 of these nutritional supplements.

4) Magnesium: This nutrient may be the most overlooked according to current public health studies.  All cell function, DNA production, and tissue healing (some 300 different processes) require magnesium.  Thus magnesium deficiency results in all types of degenerative diseases.  Additionally, magnesium is essential for proper calcium utilization.  In fact one should supplement with an approximate 2:1 ratio of calcium to magnesium.  A more specific way to determine the right dose is to take 6mg of magnesium per kilogram of body weight.  You can convert pounds to kilograms by dividing by 2.20.

5) Vitamin D: Like magnesium, vitamin D is essential for proper calcium utilization.  More than a vitamin, D is a steroid hormone produced by the body.  With 45 minutes of full sun exposure while wearing only a bathing suit, your skin produces 20,000 units of the hormone.  Although it looks like a lot, that amount is about 4 days worth of vitamin D.  The problem is that most people wear clothes, use sunscreen, or work inside.  During the winter, most of the United States doesn’t get enough overhead sunlight to activate vitamin D production.  As a result, vitamin D deficiency is epidemic, resulting in diabetes, cancer, osteoporosis, chronic pain, and many other common diseases.  Your supplementation should be managed by a health professional to ensure accurate dosing (from 400-50,000 units).

As always, one should consult with one of our doctors before starting supplements.  EPA/DHA may interact with other medications, and the amount of vitamin D in the blood should be checked to ensure appropriate dose.  Additionally, supplement quality varies greatly.  It is a largely unregulated industry.  Some supplement companies reach high levels of certification.  To ensure that the product can be appropriately absorbed, contains the right ingredients, and is free of contaminants, always look for GMP certification (good manufacturing process) by the Natural Products Association.  At Cole Pain Therapy Group, we offer Metagenics brand supplements, because of our confidence in Metagenics quality and value.

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