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Vitamins: What they are for, and where you can find them!
Since my massive mineral post was a big hit, I knew I had to make a similar one for vitamins. In the world of mineral balancing, we know that vitamins and minerals have a strong relationship. We need some minerals for proper vitamin use, and vice versa.
Again, when it comes to fixing vitamin deficiencies, we have to aim for a whole-foods, mostly organic diet plus it is essential to focus on gut health (especially increasing stomach acid) so we can absorb and utilize our nutrients properly.
Each vitamin profile will have its purpose, where you can find it in food, and whether supplement form can help or not.
Vitamin A (aka retinol or beta carotene)
One of the BIGGEST lies we have been told is that beta carotene is the same as vitamin A. While beta carotene is an important nutrient, it has to go through a process to be converted into retinol. In order to make this conversion we need a healthy gut, healthy liver and gallbladder (bile flow is the KEY), and certain enzymes and nutrients (like zinc). Even a person in 100% health will still not get a full conversion of beta carotene to retinol- some experts say we need at least 6 times the beta carotene to be able to use it for retinol. Some say it is up to 12 times more beta carotene than retinol!
There has been so many misconceptions over the last few decades about vitamin A and the foods that contain it. Eggs, butter, liver, and cod liver oil are among the highest sources of retinol but we keep hearing that fat and cholesterol are bad or that animal products are not necessary because they are unhealthy. We’ve even been told that retinol is toxic- which stemmed from a story of people eating polar bear liver. This makes ZERO sense when you realize that our ancestors thrived on foods like this for thousands of years.
Fat and cholesterol are essential for health. We have an epidemic of obesity, hormonal disorders, and autoimmune diseases despite the “low-fat” craze that has been going on for decades. The problem is not the fat or cholesterol- it is the QUALITY of the food we are consuming. Factory farming, hundreds of pesticides used, genetically modified foods, added sugar, and artificial ingredients have ruined our food supply. Luckily more people are catching on now to the lies that we’ve been fed.
So what is vitamin A needed for?
The BIG eye-opener about retinol is that it is absolutely essential for gut and immune health. This article is absolutely A-mazing with its information on why vitamin A is a huge missing link to this auto-immune epidemic that we have going on. Vitamin A has a relationship with the gut lining, as well as making us able to have a wide tolerance of foods.
Vitamin A is also needed for vision (along with zinc): night blindness is often the first sign of vitamin A deficiency. Vitamin A is also a main part of the treatment of measles, chickenpox, and some cancers, because of its role in immune system health. Vitamin A is also essential for raising low potassium levels as this vitamin helps us retain potassium.
You can find retinol in eggs, butter, liver, cod liver oil, and dairy products.
Beta Carotene has its own benefits but there have been several studies about how poorly it is converted into retinol- this article talks about these studies. There are about 600 different kinds of carotenoids, and only 50 of them are even able to be converted into true vitamin A.
You can find beta carotene in pumpkin, carrots, sweet potatoes, peppers, and spinach.
Stay away from isolated vitamin D supplements as well as they kill vitamin A stores. We actually need 25 times more A than D!
B Complex Vitamins:
There are 8 water-soluble B vitamins. They all work together for immune health, metabolism, nervous system health and more. You’ll find many foods that contain the whole B complex (or almost the whole complex). Bee pollen, nettle infusions, brewer’s yeast, beef liver and most other organ meats are the best sources. If supplements are needed, there are many food based brands out there like Garden of Life and Mega Foods. Some B vitamins can be toxic in excess- more is not always better when it comes to supplementation. You will find synthetic B vitamins added to many products on the market (along with iron)- these are NOT good sources of these nutrients because they are not bioavailable.
There is also information out there about how we form our own B vitamins in our guts from good bacteria. This would explain the huge amounts of B vitamin deficiencies out there since most people are depleted of good gut flora. This is something that I am still looking into but it truly is a fascinating concept. If this is true, then B supplements should not be the main focus- it should be on healing the gut and repopulating it.
B1- Thiamine: Needed for cellular energy, DNA and RNA synthesis. Found in yeast, meat, grains, sunflower seeds, liver, and legumes.
B2: Riboflavin: Needed for cellular energy, fat and carb metabolism, antioxidant activity (helps protect against cancer!), and normal growth. Found in beef, milk, eggs, and liver
B3: Niacin: Needed for cholesterol balance, energy production- needed for about 200 chemical reactions in the body. Found in chicken, liver, tuna, beans and nuts. (too much B3 can cause liver damage)
B5: Panothenic Acid: Needed for fatty acid synthesis and cellular energy production. Also very important for adrenal health. Found in eggs, grains, meat, and beans.
B6: Pyridoxine: Needed for absorbing and metabolizing amino acids, using fats, usage of glycogen, and helps form red blood cells. B6 is also needed for hormonal health and the nervous system. Signs of B6 deficiency include smooth tongue, skin disorders, dizziness, and kidney stones. B6 can be toxic in high doses- nerve issues is one of the main side effects. Found in liver, grains, bananas, eggs, blackstrap molasses, and beef.
B7: Biotin: Needed for proper assimilation of carbs, fats, and proteins. This vitamin is also needed for hair, skin and nail health. Found in organ meats, strawberries, cheese and brewer’s yeast.
B9: Folic Acid (Folate): Needed for DNA synthesis, to form hemoglobin, and is extremely important for developing fetuses for their spinal cord and nervous system. Found in leafy greens, organ meats, grains and nuts. (Synthetic folic acid is creating a lot of health issues for people- how long until we realize that ALL synthetic vitamins are no good for the majority of people?)
B12: Cobalamin: Needed for DNA synthesis, cellular energy production, nervous system health, and formation of red blood cells. B12 is ONLY found in animal foods- liver, eggs, milk, meat, and chicken.
Vitamin C is yet another nutrient that we are lied to about. 90% of the supplements you will see out there that have “vitamin C” on the label are really ascorbic acid which is just the shell of the vitamin C complex. Ascorbic acid is just the outer part, and tyrosinase at the core is actually a copper-containing enzyme. Ascorbic acid actually has the potential to cause copper deficiency, while whole food vitamin C supports proper copper balance.
Vitamin C is a crucial nutrient for tissue repair, collagen formation, immune system health, plus is very important for joints, blood vessels (think varicose and spider veins!), teeth, bones, and skin. Vitamin C is also one of the most important nutrients for healing from adrenal fatigue.
Vitamin C is water soluble and not stored in the body so this is a nutrient we need to have daily. Luckily, there are many food sources that contain this amazing nutrient: citrus fruits, tomatoes, broccoli, bell peppers, rose hips, and stinging nettles are just some of the sources.
There are MANY whole food vitamin C supplements on the market right now. Garden of life, Innate Response, Synergy, and Alive! are among the best quality out there. You can use a lot less whole food C as opposed to ascorbic acid so a typical dose is between 400 and 800 mg. There are some studies that show we only absorb 200mg of C at a time so it is best to split up the dosage through the day. Otherwise you are just wasting money. Too much of even whole food C can induce copper dumping.
Smokers are especially at a risk for vitamin C deficiency since it is burned through quite quickly.
Vitamin C deficiency signs include dry skin and nails, poor wound healing, easy bruising, and a tendency to catch colds easily.
Ah, vitamin D. Something you cannot talk about in natural health circles without creating a debate. Don’t get me wrong, I know that vitamin D is important and deficiency is becoming extremely common. With all of the fear mongering of the sun causing cancer, people are slathering on their (carcinogenic) sunscreen and staying indoors more often, it is no wonder why our D levels are out of whack. We are just looking at this deficiency in the wrong way- read about why in my post about vitamin D.
Vitamin D deficiency signs include chronic infections, muscle weakness, diabetes, kidney disease, asthma, tooth decay, cancer, depression, and anxiety.
We need magnesium (and boron as well) to properly utilize vitamin D. Vitamin D is not abundantly found in foods, but that doesn’t mean we need to try and bottle up sunshine and pretend that is the same thing. Our low-fat, scare-of-the-sun, magnesium deficient lifestyles are why people are so critically low in vitamin D. Taking a pill to fix things is the allopathic way of looking at illness- and that just does not work!
From this article from WAPF, “Vitamin D raises the requirement for vitamins A and K. Vitamin D should be taken by mothers or given to infants in the form of cod liver oil, and mothers should consume a diet rich in grass-fed butterfat, cheese, fermented foods, bone broths and grass-fed organ meats to supply vitamin D in a way that is safest and most effective.”
By the way, lanolin is a no-go either. Fish oil (ideally) should be coming straight from the fish to the bottle, but lanolin goes through a chemical transformation including radiation to make it into “D3”. Not everything that claims to be natural is really natural!
Vitamin E is a huge antioxidant nutrient. It is a fat-soluble vitamin so it needs enough fat to be properly utilized by the body. Strong liver health is needed to process vitamin E efficiently. Vitamin E is involved in immune system health, gene expression, and cell health, plus it helps with the prevention of cancer and cardiovascular disease.
Vitamin E is found in sunflower seeds, avocado, eggs, almonds, and leafy greens. Wheat germ oil is one of the highest sources.
Vitamin K is a fat-soluble vitamin that is crucial for blood clotting, heart health, brain function and bone health. Vitamin K has a relationship with calcium and vitamin D.
From Empowered Sustenance: “There are three types of vitamin K: K1, K2 and K3. K3 is synthetic, and should be avoided. K1 is found in leafy greens and cruciferous veggies. k2, the most important and potent type of vitamin K, is found only from animal sources with the exception of natto (a sticky fermented soy product). You’ll get K2 by consuming dairy from grass-fed ruminants, eggs, liver, beef and chicken.”
K1 is transported directly to the liver for use in blood clotting.
K2 is actually made by gut bacteria (like the B vitamins!), it helps protect against cancer, osteoporosis, and heart disease.
K3 is the synthetic form- this one is used for the vitamin K shot given to infants as soon as they are born. There is a lot of controversy about this practice and whether it is safe or not.
Read more about Vitamin K here.