"Go Natural for Good Health"

In the decade between the 1980s and 1990s, Nancy Pidutti wrote many local health columns. Later, she wrote a two-and-a-half year, monthly health newsletter, called “Let’s Be Healthy.”

She will be sharing some updated versions from her newsletter on a wide variety of topics.

You might find her newest book, “How to Stay Healthy in a World Gone Mad: A Handbook for Kingdom Living,” an interesting addition to these columns.

When Is A Vitamin More Than A Vitamin?

When a person first decides to consider taking supplements, they're faced with a bewildering array of possibilities. There are firm, gelatin capsules and a softer-sided version, liquids, lozenges, powders, tablets, sublingual (under the tongue) tablets, and even a nasal jelly, as in the case of vitamin B-12.

When they make it past that maze and start to read labels, confusion may overwhelm them when they see a list of additional ingredients (sometimes called excipients) of such things as: annatto, beeswax, cellulose, di-calcium phosphate, food glaze coating, fructose, gelatin, glycerin, gum guar, gum Arabic, hydrogenated vegetable oil, lecithin, magnesium stearate, silica, sorbitol, soy oil or protein, stearic acid, turmeric, vegetable stearine, zein vegetable (corn) protein coating and possibly others.

How in the world does a person make an intelligent choice? While I will not be able to answer all of your questions, we'll look at some of these issues and hopefully lessen your confusion. If you think that list was anxiety-provoking, wait until we look at what is commonly added to processed food! At least, these are mostly wholesome.

Let's consider tablets first. A manufacturer must have a way by which an amorphous conglomeration of assorted vitamin powders can adhere to one another and hold up to the various stages of processing which it must undergo, shipping, handling, and not disintegrate in the bottle. It can not be too sticky or it could gum up the tablet-making machines and since tablets of various kinds become standardized, ingredients may not entirely fill the particular size that has been chosen for this particular supplement.

Vitamin makers deal with these complexities by using binders, fillers, and coatings. Binders help the materials hold together. Fillers, also called diluents, increase the bulk to fit the tablet-making machine. Coatings protect the tablet from moisture, hide unpleasant flavors or smells, make the tablet release quickly from the equipment, and ease its ability to slide down your throat more easily.

The most popular binder is cellulose or ethyl cellulose. This could be made from wheat bran, a number of vegetables or apples. However, says that it's commonly manufactured from wood pulp or cotton.

(Cotton is often a highly sprayed plant. Check with to see the weed killers, insecticides, defoliants, and plant growth regulators.)

Algin, sodium alginate or alginic acid is also used. It comes from seaweed and is considered safe. Lecithin, made from soybeans, is normally good, except in the instances of people who are allergic to soy products. By the way, most soy products today are genetically modified. I don't know how that affects supplements or you.

If you see vegetable gum, probably acacia gum or gum Arabic in the list of extras, you should avoid it. Even though it is added in processed foods, it can trigger asthma attacks, and rashes and cause cellular abnormalities in developing babies in the womb.

Sorbitol is commonly added to sugarless gum and sugar-free deserts. However, if you see it on your supplement label, you might want to avoid it. Sorbitol, made from corn sugar subjected to hydrogen, can cause diarrhea with gas, cramping and bloating. Some research has implicated sorbitol in causing eye changes which increase susceptibility to cataracts.

By the way, if you see ol at the end of a word, it's a chemical indicator of alcohol. In this case, sorbitol is a sugar-alcohol. Hydrogenation changes it from a sugar into a sugar-alcohol. (That is where hydrogen gas goes into a product thru a process using heat and pressure. Think margarine.)

Lubricants, such as sorbitol, create a hard slick surface on tablets. It helps eject the tablet from the stamping molds and generally is easier to swallow than one not so coated. One drawback is that at times these coatings are impervious to stomach acids and have been known to pass through the body undissolved. (Bedpan bullets)

Calcium and magnesium stearates from vegetable oils and silica are common lubricants. Zein, made from corn protein is also used. It gives a nice smooth finish but can cause allergic reactions to those who are sensitive to corn products. Some manufacturers use Brazil wax obtained from palm trees. Do you remember another use for Brazil wax? Have you ever used it to polish your vehicle?

In order for the coated tablets to be absorbed into your body, another addition is needed. This one is termed a disintegrator. Its purpose is to speed stomach acids and juices through the coating to cause the tablet to disintegrate.

Since we've seen that it is not always effective, that might sway you to another form of vitamin. However, most tablets will dissolve unless you are producing less stomach acid due to certain vitamin shortages or the general wind-down of aging.
You might test a tablet by letting it stand in a glass of water overnight but realize that water is not as effective as the hydrochloric acid with which your stomach comes equipped.

Some vitamins are brightly colored with yellow No. 5 known as tartrazine. This common food dye can cause a rash in susceptible people. Other side effects can include headaches, hives, and upset stomach. Dr. Hunter Harang, a now-deceased oral surgeon used vitamin therapy on his patients. He found these symptoms to be included in the list: arthritis, joint pain, chronic fatigue, depression, personality changes, gout attacks, chronic earaches, and infections in children.

Drying agents are sometimes added to tablets to prevent moisture damage during processing. Silica gel may be placed in a tiny pouch in the container. It acts somewhat like a wick, drawing moisture to itself.

Chewable tablets can have flavoring and sweeteners added. These can include fructose (fruit sugar) malt dextrin, maltose, sorbitol or occasionally sucrose (table sugar). You can see from this that, even though chewables are aimed at children, they are not necessarily in their best interest.

Some people would rather take capsules than tablets. They dissolve more readily and you're more apt to receive all you're paying for. However, some people are allergic to the gelatin which can come from beef or lamb. A few people get around that problem by opening the capsule, pouring the contents on juice and drinking it down. To others that sounds just awful!

One factor we need to remember in making decisions about supplements is that no company is obligated to list all of its ingredients. That is the same for food and beverage companies. The latter take full advantage of that, but most natural vitamin companies will disclose the substances in their mixtures.

For some people powdered supplements work well. The taste may range from so-so to not-bad, but generally rates better than opening capsules. Learn to read the ingredients. Some are better equipped to meet your needs than others. However, for people who are prone to allergies, watch for soy or yeast on the label.

Does that mean I approve of diet-powder, supplement drinks? It depends entirely on the brand. Some common supplement drinks aimed at the aging population can be a real problem.

How do we handle the vitamin problem in our house? We use some or all of the above. We're learning to listen to what our bodies are trying to tell us about the things we provide. If you can recognize cause and effect, then you're beginning to awaken to the fact that we can make intelligent decisions about our needs and carry them through, dealing with changes as they are presented.
Mindell, Earl, R. Ph., Ph. D., Unsafe At Any Meal. New York: Warner, 1987. p. 24,
Earl Mindell's Vitamin Bible, New York: Rawson, Wade Pub.1988. p. 20-21. (Remember, some of my books are from older editions and the pages may not be numbered the same in newer ones.)

Learn to be Healthy!

The Eyes Have It

Over the next several columns, I'm going to share with you a series of exercises for your eyes. Now you've heard everything! Right?

There are people who have faithfully followed these exercises and have been able to put away their glasses. I make no claim for this but you might want to give them a try and see what happens. However, some of these exercises are refreshing, and they may benefit you as they have me.

The ophthalmologist who recommended this series of exercises wrote of remarkable results among his patients who tried them. Dr. William H. Bates is the author of "The Bates Method For Better Eyes Without Glasses."

Read more ...

Egg On My Face

By Nancy L. Pidutti

Many people are needlessly worried about eating eggs. We'll look at some pros and cons so you can make your own health-based decision.

If we pay attention to our body and how it responds to what we feed it, we'll be better able to understand how to give it the best raw materials for its proper working. That's far better than giving in to public hype or peer pressure. However, to be effective we need to know something about how your body operates under optimal conditions.

The main concern about eating eggs is related to the fear that they will raise our blood cholesterol levels. It may relieve you to know that your body needs cholesterol and certain body parts, such as your liver, actually manufacture it.

Read more ...

Water, Is There a Drop Fit to Drink?

By Nancy L. Pidutti RN, PhD.

One of the leading questions of our time relates to whether our water, from whatever source, is fit to drink. Gone are the days when it was "safe" to eat snow or suck icicles hanging from roofs or bushes.

Scientific studies show mercury build-up in fish is escalating which causes increasing levels of concern. It's in the atmosphere for a number of contamination reasons, and it's even present in fish taken from seemingly pristine lakes in remote places.

The problem is serious enough that pregnant women are urged to eat very little fish because the toxic metal passes from the mother's placenta into the baby she carries. Mercury has been implicated in a number of serious birth defects, including mental retardation, balance problems and seizures. (webMD)

Read more ...

What's the Beef About White Bread?

By Nancy L. Pidutti

White bread has been one of the three most commonly purchased "foods" in America. According to statistics, the average person eats about 43+ pounds of bread a year. That astounding fact may be one of the reasons why our nation's people are having so many poor health problems.

White flour has been totally stripped of all natural nutrients. The only thing remaining is the soft starchy center which has some energy value, but does not contain the vitamins and minerals the germ has in abundance and has no fiber such as that found in the bran or outer covering.

Manufacturers add back to the doughy mass a few synthetic vitamins along with many additives. The result is a light, fluffy loaf that can be squeezed down to about the size of a tennis ball.

Read more ...

To B or Not to B

Let’s get acquainted with the B-Complex family. You’ll be glad you did. They are one of your nerves’ best set of friends.

Do you feel strung-out, have trouble sleeping, feel over-whelmed, confused, irritable and have trouble remembering?

Perhaps you do not have that complete list, but you have been depressed and listless. Or do you have an embarrassing twitch or tic? These are just a few of the symptoms of not getting enough of this important group of vitamins.

Read more ...

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