Results time... And what a surprise
I received the results of my vitamin level hair tests... and boy oh boy did I get a surprise!!
As you can see from the chart above my levels aren't that great for quite a few vitamins and minerals. As I said in my first blog post - I have a pretty decent diet - I eat meat and veggies, most of the time 3 meals a day (I have a bad habit of skipping a decent breakfast on occasion). I eat eggs, fish and milk products like cheese and yoghurt. My weaknesses are burgers and beer ... but hey, that's not too bad in my book! I have one to two coffees a day (with normal milk) so nothing excessive there.
All in all, these results were a bit surprising to be honest...however, once I read about the vitamins I’m deficient in… I realised that there is quite a lot of correlation to some of the things I experience with my body.
My deficiencies match my symptoms
My current symptoms include (and have for a while now) – upset tummy (either blocked up or needing to run to the loo), gas, tummy pains, bad skin on my chin (this is a new thing …I HATE it), and aching joints. The aching joints are also relatively new (knees and ankles) - and I suspect are due to inflammation and the health of my digestive tract.
The results show that I have "chronic stress" regarding these nutrients in my body and the lower the score, the worse it is... this is SCARY stuff. We need to have vitamins and minerals to function. And it looks like I am barely functioning properly...let alone at peak levels.
From worst deficiency to least deficient (but still deficient):
* Vitamin B12 - this is found in meat and eggs. Which is interesting as I eat these things. A lack of B12 (in my case, it's pretty bad) can cause things like pale skin, weakness, heart palpitations, shortness of breath, constipation or diarrhea, loss of appetite and gas, nerve problems (like tingling/numbness) and mental problems like depression or memory loss.
I have got digestive issues - alternating between the two states mentioned above (clogged up or have to go right away) and have suffered from depression... interesting to me that if this vitamin is such a big thing in terms of depression, why don't doctors test for it before prescribing anti-depressants?!
* Omega 6 Fatty Acids - these are an interesting omega. Omegas are fatty acids that our body needs. Our bodies can’t produce any of the Omega fatty acids. The only source is food. Omega 6 is found in vegetable oils and nuts. It's also found in other things like grains and poultry. Our body needs Omega 6 for many functions, from building healthy cells to maintaining brain and nerve function. There is also evidence that these fatty acids help prevent heart disease, type 2 diabetes, Alzheimer's and brain decline.
But a word to the wise - there is research about that says that we shouldn't have too much of Omega 6 as it interferes with Omega 3. Omega 3 (in which I am normal), comes from fatty fish, flaxseed, and walnuts.
* Riboflavin (B2) - Riboflavin is required for the proper development and function of the skin, lining of the digestive tract, blood cells, and many other parts of the body. Increasing my Riboflavin levels should result is an increase in energy, a better immune system, healthier hair, skins, mucous membranes, and nails, plus an increase in athletic performance (all good with me as I'm trying to increase my weights that I lift)!
* Vitamin D - well we all know about this one as there is so much debate about getting out of the sun so we don't get skin cancer but making sure we get enough so we don't get Vitamin D deficiency! 80% to 90% of what the body gets – is obtained through exposure to sunlight. Now, I love the sun and definitely notice a difference in my mood levels in winter when there isn't any! And I love lying outside tanning... which some people disagree with (and that's cool, whatever works for you).
Most New Zealanders are deficient in this vitamin... but it's pretty important… It helps your bones be strong, moderates cell growth, your immune system and helps reduce inflammation.
(On a side note, I recently read on Pete Evans blog that people with skin cancer seemed to have low levels of Vitamin D. This is so interesting given that you are meant to get Vitamin D from the sun (and skin cancer!) and yet, these people seemed to have low levels... you can read more here. I thought it was a thought provoking article. But we can talk more about that on a later blog).
* Vitamin B1 - B1 is a key player in the production of energy from dietary carbohydrates and fats. Deficiency in this vitamin can affect the nervous system, the heart, and digestive function.
* Vitamin E – is an antioxidant which helps cells stay healthy. It also helps the immune system. It can be found in nuts, seeds, and veg oils. Also in green leafy veggies and fortified cereals. This vitamin also helps you absorb fat... interesting as I often feel terrible after a fatty meal and have the worst digestive issues after these kinds of meals.
* Vitamin B5 – another part of the B family. B5 (like the other Bs) helps break down fats and carbs for energy. B5 is critical for red blood cell manufacture, and sex and stress hormones. B5 also helps the digestive tracts and assists the body in using other vitamins (especially B2). This is also the vitamin that people refer to as the “stress vitamin” as they swear by it for managing stress. I am quite a ‘stress bunny’ at times so this lack of B5 is one thing that might be contributing to that.
* Biotin – is another B vitamin and is also known as Vitamin H. It supports the health of the skin, nerves, digestive tract, metabolism, and cells. Biotin occurs naturally in many foods. Wheat germ, whole-grain cereals, whole wheat bread, eggs, dairy products, peanuts, soy, nuts, Swiss chard, salmon, and chicken are all sources of biotin.
* Vitamin C - you need vitamin C for the growth and repair of tissues in all parts of your body. It helps the body make collagen, an important protein used to make skin, cartilage, tendons, ligaments, and blood vessels. Vitamin C is needed for healing wounds, and for repairing and maintaining bones and teeth.
I have normal/neutral levels of Calcium, Omega 3 Fatty Acids, Vitamin K, Folic Acid, Vitamin A, Vitamin B6, Niacin, Zinc, Sodium, Selenium, Potassium, Magnesium, Iron, Iodine, Chromium, Manganese, Boron and Copper.
So what next as clearly, I can’t go on like this?
With seemingly ok energy levels, going to the gym 3-4 times a week, and eating as I do, I STILL have these deficiencies. I can only imagine how awesome I would feel if I was all balanced out!
I’ve got to do something about this and from doing the research into what these vitamins play a role in, it could be the answer to some longer terms issues I've been having!
That is where my new Vitamins come in.
Why have I chosen the vitamins I have?
I decided that because I don’t have a specific condition that requires a naturopath or doctor, I am going for a general range of supplements. I’m trying the USANA range for that reason and also because I looked into their manufacturing practices and level of manufacture.
I'm impressed with what I've seen. USANA manufacture to a pharmaceutical (medical) grade level and this means that what they say is in the supplements, is in the supplements.
With lower levels of manufacture eg, food grade, the requirement is only to be within a certain range of what the packet says is in the supplements. For me, that isn't enough as I want to know exactly the amount I am ingesting.
Purely based on my opinion - I'd suggest that whatever you are taking, at least look to see how any supplements you are taking are manufactured. And even if you’re not into USANA, at least try for a brand that is manufactured at pharmaceutical levels so you know what you are putting in your body and the exact levels of supplementation you are getting. From the reading I have been doing, this may also stop any excess levels of supplementation - some vitamins are only meant to be consumed in lower doses.
Another thing to note in NZ - excluding products that contain more than 300 micrograms of folic acid, there is no requirement for dietary supplements to be manufactured to Good Manufacturing Practice (although they have to be food safe). Good Manufacturing Practice (GMP) is the term used to describe the systems manufacturers of medicines are required to have in place to ensure their products are consistently safe, effective and of acceptable quality. This is from MEDSAFE NZ who govern the use of therapeutic products and dietary supplements. USANA (and some other companies) do use GMP so that is another reason why I am choosing to trial these supplements.
The other thing I like about USANA is that they have a great range of general vitamins (a multi-mineral and an antioxidant) and you can then add on other vitamins if you need them for specific complaints or in my case, deficiencies.
I've also chewed the vitamins (as sometimes I have difficulty swallowing pills) and they aren't nasty - so that helps too!
My aim is to take these vitamins daily as suggested by USANA and check in on my progress, anything interesting that is happening to me and I will get re-tested in a few months (it takes a while for the vitamins to get into the system).
My next post will be about what I have chosen and how much of these vitamins I should be taking :) Exciting times!