Vitamins & Supplements

  • Ways to Get Vitamin D in Overcast Climates

    Don't underestimate the role of vitamin D in a wide range of health benefits. While most associate the nutrient with bone development and overall health, it also helps fend off the common cold and reduce a person's risk for developing heart disease and certain types of cancers--as long as you get the correct amount. Experts recommend that people under the age of 50 should get close to 600 International Units (IUs) of vitamin D per day. So how do you get vitamin D, a vitamin hard to come by in most food sources?

    Here's a look at ways to get the recommended daily dose of vitamin D naturally:

    • Catch Some Rays
      It’s true that in overcast climates, the sun isn't beaming down on you with the same intensity as in a tropical climate, but being outside and soaking in vitamin D-producing rays is still good for you. Even on cloudy days or in overcast climates, UV rays can still make their way to your skin.
    • Go Fish
      Varieties of fish such as swordfish, salmon, trout, tuna and eel contain fatty acids, which thereby contain vitamin D. A 3-ounce salmon filet, for example, contains about 450 IUs of vitamin D.
    • Do Cry Over Spilled Milk 
      Drink lots of milk and consume other fortified dairy products, like yogurt. A fortified 8 ounce glass of milk contains as many as 100 IUs of vitamin D, while yogurt can offer up to 80 IUs. If you're not a fan of dairy products, pick up some fortified orange juice, which offers a similar amount.
    • The Yolk's On You
      Over the past several years, egg whites have increased in popularity due to the fact that they are low in calories, saturated fat and cholesterol. But before you write off the egg yolk entirely, think again. Not only does the egg yolk contain approximately 40 IUs of vitamin D, it's also a good source of vitamins A and B, iron and calcium.

    Knowing how to get vitamin D, regardless of the climate you live in, doesn't have to be difficult. Getting outdoors and eating right are the essential keys to getting the proper amount of vitamin D. And as an added bonus, there are plenty of vitamin D supplements to help you boost your intake. Look to Pharmaca brand vitamin D supplements, in formulas for children and adults--and stay active and maintain a healthy diet--and you'll be on your way to reaping the benefits that vitamin D provides!

  • A Special Thanks from Vitamin Angels

    Since 2004, Pharmaca has been a proud partner of Vitamin Angels, a non-profit organization that raises funds to help at-risk populations in need--specifically pregnant women, new mothers and children under 5--gain access to life saving and life-changing micronutrients. Donations to Vitamin Angels go toward distribution of prenatal vitamins, vitamin A and children's multivitamins, which help increase immunity and boost overall health to increase these populations' chances for health and success.

    In addition to the Vitamin Angels donations cards always available at the register (ask a Pharmaca Team Member if you can't find them), Pharmaca runs several special promotions each year to encourage customer donations. We're proud to say that through the generosity of our customers, we were able to donate more than $20,000 in 2012, enough to serve more than 82,000 children in the US and 49 other countries. We hope that you'll help us contribute to our growing 2013 contribution next time you're at a Pharmaca store!

    Below, Vitamin Angels staff member Kelsey speaks to us from Honduras, where Vitamin Angels is working with Feed the Children to provide both food and nutrients.

  • Snapshot: Different Probiotic Species and Strains

    As a follow up to our post on how to choose a probiotic, here's a snapshot look at different probiotic strains, when they're useful and where to find them.

    Probiotic species & strains  Health benefits Where you'll find it

    B. longum


    The most significant and important probiotics in the body, and among the first to colonize in the sterile GI tract of a newborn infant (also found in human breast milk). Stimulates the immune response and promotes microbial balance by crowding out bad bacteria that cause discomfort and neutralizing everyday toxins in the gut. Aids production and absorption of B vitamins, blocks harmful invaders, boosts the immune system and helps maintain regularity. Helps break down carbs without producing excess gas. May help to prevent or minimize various allergies or allergic reactions, inflammation associated with Crohn’s disease, or colitis.May have positive impact on cholesterol levels.

    Lowers the pH of the intestine/vagina to inhibit the growth of harmful bacteria.



    L. acidophilus

    Most commonly used probiotic.Lives in the mouth, intestines (maintains integrity of the wall of the small intestine, aiding nutrient absorption and supporting immunity) and vagina (adheres to the walls of the vagina and urinary system where it can fight infection). Helps to synthesize vitamin K and many antimicrobial substances, giving it antibiotic properties.


    L. rhamnosus GG

    One of the most effective strains for combating antibiotic-associated diarrhea and traveler’s diarrhea. Lives in the intestines, and fights infections both in the gut and urinary tract. Assists in dairy digestion and lactose intolerance.

    L. plantarum 299V

    Reduces pain, bloating and improves constipation in Irritable Bowel Syndrome. Helps with antibiotic-associated diarrhea.
    • Jarrow Formulas Ideal Bowel Support

    S. boulardii

    A probiotic yeast resistant to stomach acids and antibiotics. Effective against reducing acute diarrhea in children and adults. Protects against both antibiotic and travelers’ induced diarrhea. Promotes immune and digestive health.

    B. infantis

    Excellent for both children and adults, B. infantis is one of the first colonize in the newborn’s digestive tract. Helps to impede the growth of harmful bacteria.Excellent producer of B vitamins. Offers good results with IBS (bloating, gas, diarrhea, constipation, urgency and abdominal discomfort), IBD, ulcerative colitis and traveler’s diarrhea.

    L. casei





    Helps control diarrhea, has potential anti-inflammatory effects on the GI and aids in relieving antibiotic-associated diarrhea. Produces lactic acid to lower the pH of the gut, impeding the growth of harmful bacteria. Lives in the mouth and intestines of both infants and adults.

    L. reuteri



    Provides strong protection against infection and helps maintain a healthy immune system. Treats and prevents diarrhea. Helps relieve colic. Releases a substance capable of killing bacteria, yeast and fungi, making it popular for vaginal infection support against candida, UTIs.


    S. thermophilus


    One of the most useful strains in the commercial food industry. True starter strain for making yogurt (used in making cheeses too). Ferments milk sugar (lactose) that turns into lactic acid, which is effective at preventing lactose intolerance and also lowers the pH of the yogurt preventing the growth of harmful bacteria causing food poisoning. Keeps microflora of intestines balanced.May have benefits for chemotherapy patients.

    B. breve

    Unique in its ability to compete against harmful bacteria due to the large variety of molecules it can digest (including plant fibers otherwise thought non-digestible). Inhibits E. coli. Present in the intestines and the vagina (inhibits growth of candida albicans, the primary cause of yeast infections). Decreases occurrence of gas, diarrhea and bowel irritations.

    L. helveticus

    Exerts antimicrobial activities against pathogens, helps reduce symptoms of lactose intolerance by breaking down lactose, helps to prevent and reduce diarrhea, may have implications on lowering cholesterol and blood pressure as well as help with calcium absorption. Lives in the intestines.


  • Coenzyme Q10: A Heart-Healthy Antioxidant for Optimal Aging

    SunCare2-ArticleCoenzyme Q10 (aka CoQ10 and ubiquinone) is a simple molecule that is naturally produced in our cells’ mitochondria. CoQ10 has the important role of helping convert sugar into energy or ATP—an energy source that’s essential for helping cells perform their primary functions. Coenzyme Q10 is used in enzyme systems that provide 90 percent of a cell’s energy, making it critical to our health.

    CoQ10: An invaluable antioxidant
    A second function of CoQ10 is to act as a natural, potent antioxidant. Antioxidants travel the body in search of free radicals that create what is called oxidative stress. Free radicals are also natural, forming as a byproduct of metabolism, but form at a greater rate when the body is exposed to environmental and lifestyle factors such as excessive sunlight, smoke and exhaust, poor diet and alcohol consumption.

    Oxidative stress occurs because free radicals are unstable molecules looking to find stability in another molecule—rendering the secondary molecule unstable. This chain of events can lead to disruption of healthy cells, cell death and damage to tissues, similar to what is believed to happen during the aging process. That’s why ample antioxidants are critical to us as we age.

    As with many important nutrients, natural CoQ10 production decreases with age. What makes CoQ10 different is that it is the only fat-soluble antioxidant our bodies naturally produce that has a special ability to restore itself back to its healthy state after successfully scavenging free radicals—making it an invaluable antioxidant in the fight against aging.

    Coenzyme Q10 and heart health
    In healthy heart tissue, CoQ10 is found in abundant supply. In fact, since the heart is the most active muscle in the body and uses the most energy, its cells tend to produce the highest concentrations of CoQ10. Individuals with heart conditions such as high blood pressure, high cholesterol, a history of heart attack or congestive heart failure tend to have lower levels of CoQ10. It’s not clear whether CoQ10 deficiency is the cause of these conditions or simply an effect. Research, however, supports the idea that CoQ10 can help improve cardiovascular health and other heart conditions.

    Supplementing with Coenzyme Q10
    CoQ10 is found in minimal quantities in foods such as whole grains, nuts, beans, seeds, soybeans and eggs, with the highest concentrations found in meats and fish. The common doses used in research studies range between 90-400 mg/day. Ubiquinone, the oxidized form of CoQ10, is fat-soluble and is not well absorbed from the stomach and intestine. Ubiquinol, on the other hand, is the reduced, active antioxidant state of CoQ10 and is significantly better absorbed, particularly as we age.

    Is it time to start supplementing with CoQ10? Natural production of CoQ10 starts to slow down around age 30-35. If you have high blood pressure or cholesterol or a family history of heart disease, supplementing with CoQ10 can help protect you from the damaging effects of oxidative stress and provide your heart with the ability to work more efficiently.

    Here are some CoQ10 supplements I recommend:

    Pharmaca CoQ10 Ubiquinol QH 100mg
    Thorne Research Q-Best 50
    Metagenics NanoCell-Q (liquid CoQ10)
    Natural Factors Coenzyme Q10 200 mg
    Jarrow Formulas Ubiquinol QH-absorb
    New Chapter CoQ10+ Food Complex

  • How Do I Choose a Probiotic?

    We know now that probiotics are good for us. But with so many to choose from, how do we choose one that’s right for us? Not all probiotics are created equal; different varieties of bacterial strains have different benefits, in addition to differing potencies, routes of ingestion, manufacturing methods and so on. Read on to learn how to choose a probiotic that’s right for you.

    First, identify why you need probiotics. It may be to counteract a course of antibiotics, to support digestion, to treat a yeast infection or simply to boost immunity. While many products are formulated to suit a particular need, others are general in their labeling. Here are a few things to keep in mind when looking for a probiotic that suits your needs.

    While taking antibiotics
    Antibiotics are good at their job of wiping out invasive bacteria. The problem is that they are also good at killing beneficial bacteria, setting the stage for gastric distress, diarrhea and possible secondary infection—making it critical to take probiotics concurrently. Note that you should always take antibiotics and probiotics on opposite schedules so their effects do not counterbalance each other (i.e. take probiotics at least 2 hours away from antibiotics).

    While on antibiotics, take a higher-potency probiotic (20-100 billion) to replenish gut flora, and continue them for a month or more after your course. For this purpose I recommend Renew Life’s Ultimate Flora Critical Care,Nature’s Way Primadophilus Optima, Pharmaca’s Ultimate Probiotic Blend and Pharmax High Intensity products.

    Yeast and women’s balance
    Probiotics are very effective in balancing vaginal flora, which helps guard against infection and prevent overgrowth of candida. Suppositories offer a direct method to assist vaginal flora—be sure it has at least a billion lactobacillus to support vaginal flora. Taking oral probiotics at the same time can offer maximum coverage. Try Jarrow Formulas’ Fem-Dophilus or Vitanica’s FemEcology. Both of these products are formulated for vaginal flora balance and can be used as suppositories as well.

    Probiotics for children
    Probiotics are extremely important for developing digestive tracts and supporting immunity. Kid-specific products are formulated to make them appealing for little ones. Try Jarrow Formulas’ Yum-Yum Dophilus or Nature’s Way’s Primadophilus Kids.

    Potency is measured in colony forming units (CFUs). A good first step is to ensure you choose a product that gives a “good until” date to ensure potency until a certain date. (Some manufacturers only stamp their CFUs at the time of manufacture, e.g. “1 billion active L. acidophilus and B. bifidum at the time of manufacture.”) Because probiotics are live organisms at the time of manufacture, over time you can expect a slow die-off of bacteria, which ultimately renders the probiotic useless. This happens much faster if the product is improperly stored.

    Potency varies widely in probiotic supplements, generally between 1 and 100 billion CFUs. Currently there are no standardizations for dosing and potency with probiotics. You may need a period of adjustment to identify what potency is optimal for you, but here are some general guidelines to help you start.

    • For mild digestion problems (gas, bloating, diarrhea) try starting with a lower dose (5-10 billion CFUs) and working up.
    • For more severe digestion issues (chronic diarrhea, gas, bloating and infections), you may want to try taking a lower potency every other day and working your way up to a much higher potency (since there can be gas and bloating associated with probiotics colonizing in the gut).
    • For bowel regularity, try New Chapter’s Probiotic GI Tract.
    • For general intestinal maintenance, try taking 1-2 billion CFUs per day, as in Enzymatic Therapy’s Acidophilus Pearls. Many people choose to take a much higher maintenance dose because they have found that it gives them optimal digestion and immunity. A popular product for daily use is Jarrow Formulas’ Jarro-Dophilus EPS,which contains 5 billion per dose and does not require refrigeration.

    In addition, probiotic formulas are often formulated with added prebiotics—non-digestible food that feeds probiotics and promotes healthy flora. Examples of prebiotics include FOS and inulin. Try Jarrow Formulas’ Jarro-Dophilus + FOS or Pharmaca’s Acidophilus and Bifidus.

    Other considerations


    Since many probiotics are grown in a culture that contains dairy, people who are completely lactose intolerant must look for dairy-free formulas. There may also be traces of gluten in some products, so be sure to check the label or ask a qualified health practitioner for a gluten-free option. A few allergen-free products to try include Pharmax HLC, Jarrow Formulas’ Allergen-Free Jarro-dophilus or Thorne Research’s FloraMend.


    Many probiotics require refrigeration to maintain potency, which can be inconvenient—especially for travel—but there are several good probiotics that do not require refrigeration. Try Jarrow Formulas’ Jarro-Dophilus EPS, Essential Formulas’ Probiotics 12 Plus Original Formula or Enzymatic Therapy’s Pearls. Be sure to follow proper storage of your probiotic, paying attention to moisture, light and temperature.

    Delivery methods

    There are a variety of delivery methods for probiotics, including liquids, powders (great for infants!), capsules, chewables and suppositories. Fermented foods are also a terrific source of probiotics, including kefir, yogurt, sauerkraut, anything pickled, miso, tempeh and soy sauce. Kombucha is a popular fermented tea that is a great source of probiotics.


    Be sure to read directions thoroughly! Products can differ based on whether or not they should be taken on an empty stomach.

    Side effects

    Probiotics are considered generally safe and well tolerated, and serious side effects are fairly uncommon. Possible side effects include gas, bloating and tenderness in the gut (either to the touch or with motion) and possible diarrhea or constipation. Because these symptoms occur while the bacteria are colonizing in the gut, they tend to become less pronounced with ongoing use. There have been rare reports of infection occurring in the severely ill or immune-compromised.

    There is no evidence that higher doses of probiotics are unsafe (even though they may be more expensive and unnecessary for some). When in question, start lower and work your way up. Back off on potency if you are experiencing uncomfortable symptoms from the probiotics, but don’t give up! Speak with a qualified health practitioner if you have concerns with any side effects from probiotics colonizing.

    Trusted manufacturers

    Perhaps the most important aspect in choosing your probiotic is purchasing from trusted manufacturers with good manufacturing practices and quality control! These brands should have research available to demonstrate the effectiveness of their products, including proof of potency and ability to survive the environment of stomach acids and bile salts. Special manufacturing techniques are required to ensure the probiotics make it to their destination for colonization (i.e. small or large intestine). Examples of these techniques include enteric coating and “beadlet” technology. A few examples of trusted manufacturers include Pharmax, Metagenics, Pharmaca, Renew Life, New Chapter, Jarrow, Udo’s and MegaFood.

  • What Are Probiotics (and Why do I Need Them?)

    YogurtProbiotics are microorganisms, including both bacteria and yeast, that live in the small and large intestines (also referred to as the gut). Collectively, all organisms in the gut are referred to as flora.

    There are more than 400 different types of bacteria species living in the gut, accounting for a whopping 3-5 pounds of body weight. Your gut is also home to a network of lymphoid tissue that makes up 60-70 percent of your immune system. That’s why keeping a healthy balance is critical to your ability to fight infection and optimally digest and metabolize food.

    Two genuses of bacteria—Lactobacillus (L.) and Bifidobacterium (B.)—are the most beneficial strains commonly used in probiotics, and a complete probiotic should contain strains of both in order to provide protection for both the small and large intestine. Here are a few examples of specific strains of these genuses that have unique capabilities:

    L. acidophilus strains predominantly live in the mouth, small intestine and vagina. They greatly benefit digestion by producing enzymes that break down food (e.g. lactase, which breaks down dairy), assisting in absorption of vitamins K and B, calcium and fatty acids, and protecting against infection and disease by lowering the pH of the gut to make it uninhabitable by bad bacteria.

    B. bifidum predominantly live in the large intestine and vagina, and adhere themselves to the walls of each, thus preventing bad bacteria from colonizing. B. Bifidum also produces substances that lower the pH of their environment so bad bacteria cannot thrive, and enhances assimilation of minerals.

    Many more strains exist that have shown specific beneficial properties. Consult with a qualified health practitioner for strains that are specific to helping certain health conditions (e.g. L. Rhamnosus, called the “travelers’ probiotic,” because it has shown protection against diarrhea while traveling).

    Beneficial yeast can also serve as probiotics. Here are a few examples of yeasts commonly found in probiotic formulas:

    Saccharomyces boulardii is a yeast that can sustain flora in the gut and help prevent and treat diarrhea from various causes (e.g. traveling or antibiotics).

    Saccharomyces cerevisiae, also known as brewer’s yeast or nutritional yeast, has been used for thousands of years to make dough rise and create alcohol (due to the yeast’s special ability to ferment certain sugars). S. cerevisiae has many beneficial effects, and is high in protein, fiber, B vitamins and folic acid.

    Different types of probiotics can be helpful for a variety of health conditions—they aid nutrient absorption, produce key vitamins, improve digestion and immunity, balance intestinal and vaginal flora, protect us from antibiotic use damage and improve overall wellbeing.

    Now that we know a bit about types of probiotics, the next step is in figuring out how to choose which one is right for you.

  • The Scoop on Vitamins: B12 – Cobalamin

    NutritionSupplements16-ArticleB12 is the most complex and unique of all B vitamins. The only source of B12 in nature is from microbial synthesis from good bacteria in the gastrointestinal tract and from eating meat. Because it is not found in plants, it is a common deficiency for vegans and vegetarians, and because B12 is created in the intestinal tract, its absorption is also greatly inhibited by gastrointestinal disorders like Celiac Disease, Crohn’s, ilietis, colitis, parasites or any other disorders that impair intestinal function.

    So why is B12 so important? B12 is vital for amino acid synthesis, DNA replication and the manufacturing of neurotransmitters that are partially responsible for stabilizing mood and sleep patterns. Signs of deficiency include gastrointestinal disturbance, hypotension, fatigue, numbness, tingling in extremities, confusion and agitation.

    B12 is also needed to metabolize essential fatty acids, so a deficiency can result in impairment of brain and nerve tissue, like the myelin sheath. Prolonged deficiency of B12 can lead to a variety of central nervous system symptoms, and some neurological disturbances can become permanent. Maintaining and replenishing B12 is most effective by injection or supplementation, combined with the right diet.

    The body’s daily needs for B12 are minimal—it’s such a valuable nutrient that the body doesn’t readily excrete it. The average required daily allowance is about 2-3 mcg. High dietary sources of B12 are organ meats, clams, oysters, salmon, sardines and egg yolks.

    Relying on proper dietary choices to support the good bacteria in the gut is a vital way to ensure you're getting the B12 you need. Maintain balanced gut flora through high-quality probiotics such as Dr. Ohhira's, a superior, fermented food-based probiotic, Pharmax’s HLC High Potency Probiotics or Thorne Research's FloraMend Prime Probiotic. You may also want to incorporate fermented foods like unpasteurized kimchi, miso and sauerkraut into your diet, and ensure you’re getting enough fiber from vegetables, nuts and seeds in order to maintain balance in the digestive tract.

    Following are some of the high-quality, B12 supplements we offer at Pharmaca, all forms of methylcobalamin, which is naturally the most bioavailable form: Pharmaca’s Vitamin B12 Sublingual, Superior Source’s No Shot Vitamin B12 or Natural Factors B12 Methylcobalamin.

  • The Scoop on Vitamins: B9 - Folic Acid

    This is part of our continuing series on the function of vitamins in the body.

    Folic acid is one of the more well known B vitamins because of its importance during pregnancy for healthy fetal development, particularly during the first trimester. While the connection isn’t completely understood, the demand for folate most likely increases because of unique hormonal changes. It’s important to note that women who are on the birth control pill but are not pregnant also have an increased need for folate and other B vitamins because the pill creates hormone demands that mimic pregnancy.

    Folate (also called folacin) deficiencies are observed in the depressed and the mentally ill, as well as the elderly. Smoking, alcohol and stress also readily deplete folate. Folacin deficiency is one of the most prevalent deficiencies, though it is difficult to identify because its symptoms can mimic those of a B12 deficiency—folate is dependent on B12 for proper utilization, and without it is useless in the body. Symptoms of deficiency include irritability, weakness, apathy, forgetfulness, hostility, paranoid behavior, headache, gastrointestinal disturbance and heart palpitations.

    Proper folate levels are critical for a healthy system. This powerful nutrient is used to nourish and repair tissues, and plays a key role in the manufacturing of neurotransmitters that help regulate sleep, pain and mood. Aim for at least 400 mcg of folate daily to maintain tissue stores and give your body the building blocks it needs.

    Supplementation of folate is an easy and affordable way to support energy, mental health and the demands of growth and aging. Studies have shown that the body responds quickly to supplementation therapy. I always recommend B vitamins taken together in the form of a B-complex supplement.

    My top recommendations:

    Basic B-Complex by Thorne Research, which offers 400 mcg of folate per serving. Thorne is a medical-grade company and I often recommend it for its potency, quality and avoidance of allergens, fillers and preservatives.

    I also recommend food-based supplements like MegaFood’s Balanced B Complex because they offer pure, bioavailable formulations.

    Studies have also shown that good folate levels can be maintained with the ingestion of two portions of leafy green vegetables each day (folate and folacin derive their names from “foliage”). That includes nutritionally rich and health-boosting greens such as spinach, kale and collards, along with other nourishing vegetables like asparagus, broccoli, cabbage, green peas, cauliflower, sweet potatoes and cantaloupe. But like the other B vitamins, folate is sensitive to high-heat cooking methods like boiling and microwaving that can deplete the nutrients, so it is vital to eat both fresh, raw produce as well as cooked.

    Elizabeth Willis is a Certified Clinical Nutritionist and Herbalist. She has a private practice in Boulder, Colo., and also works at Pharmaca’s downtown Boulder location. Elizabeth specializes in a holistic approach by connecting her clients with the more dynamic roles of food and nutrition. She believes that by eliminating food intolerances, building optimal nutrition and working directly with the emotional body, it is possible to greatly revive one’s health by reconnecting body with spirit.

  • The Scoop on Vitamins: Vitamin B2 - Riboflavin

    This is part of our continuing series on the function of vitamins in the body.

    Vitamin B2 is a powerhouse of energy, and a key member of the B vitamin family. B2, or riboflavin, is comprised of two enzymes: flavin mononucleotide and flavin adenine dinucleotide, which play an essential role in the breakdown and assimilation of food. As a potent enzyme, riboflavin helps us to synthesize essential fatty acids and amino acids. It also enables better absorption of iron and B6. Riboflavin is so vital to the system that cells cannot grow without it, and deficiency is quickly seen in cells that are frequently reproducing, like the mucous membranes, eyes, hair and in vitro.

    Because B2 is such an intricate part of cellular energy and metabolism, its requirements are based on the amount of calories a person consumes, as well as their body weight and their lifestyle. According to The Nutrition Desk Reference, we need roughly 0.6 mg of vitamin B2 per 100 pounds of body weight every day.

    For example, a pregnant woman needs no less than 1.6 mg/day to nourish herself and the cellular demand of her growing infant. Similarly, because young children and teens are growing so rapidly, they need a daily dose of .8-1.2 mg/day. (Signs of deficiency among this group include red cracks at the corners of the mouth.) Because of their larger build, an active adult male will need more substantial dose of around 1.7 mg/day.  

    Like most other B vitamins, B2 is water soluble, meaning it is used rapidly in the body and can be excreted quickly under stress and with the use of diuretics like caffeine. Depletion can stem from the birth control pill, strenuous exercise, antibiotic use and alcohol. Unfortunately B2 deficiency isn’t terribly easy to recognize—that’s why it’s imperative to reach for whole foods that offer the nutrient in abundance, like organic milk products, tuna and salmon, chicken, dark leafy greens, mushrooms, asparagus, broccoli, sprouts, and eggs. Choosing foods loaded with this essential nutrient will keep your energy levels up and prepare your body to repair tissue and ward off sickness. A daily multivitamin or B complex can also be a good way to supplement this essential vitamin.

    The Nutrition Desk Reference, by Robert Garrison and Elizabeth Somer

    Elizabeth Willis is a Certified Clinical Nutritionist and Herbalist. She has a private practice in Boulder, Colo., and also works at Pharmaca’s downtown Boulder location. Elizabeth specializes in a holistic approach by connecting her clients with the more dynamic roles of food and nutrition. She believes that by eliminating food intolerances, building optimal nutrition and working directly with the emotional body, it is possible to greatly revive one’s health by reconnecting body with spirit.

  • The Scoop on Vitamins: Vitamin B1 - Thiamine

    This is part of our continuing series on the function of vitamins in the body.

    The family of B vitamins is collectively called the B Complex. B Vitamins are used in many ways, from helping the liver clear toxins and excess hormones to creating energy within our cells. Every system in your body requires B vitamins to function.

    B1, also called thiamine, is a unique nutrient that plays an integral role in the brain and central nervous system. B1’s coenzyme form is important for the synthesis of acetylcholine, which is critical in preventing memory loss and nerve inflammation. B1 is also important for the repair and prevention of any impairment of nerve function.

    Another of B1’s major contributions to the body is the dynamic way it facilitates proper digestion:

    B1 assists in the production of hydrochloric acid (stomach acid), which is vital to the proper breakdown and assimilation of food.
    B1 helps maintain muscle tone in the intestines and stomach, prevents constipation and plays a role in the metabolism of carbohydrates.
    B1 provides nourishment for all digestive organs, helps us to get maximum nutrition from our food and regulates appetite.

    Symptoms of B1 deficiency include loss of reflexes, peripheral paralysis or numbness in the extremities. These symptoms have engendered theories that B1 deficiency may be a player in diseases such as Multiple Sclerosis and Restless Leg Syndrome.

    B1 deficiency often stems from high amounts of exercise or a diet that’s high in carbohydrates or alcohol. An optimal amount of B1 for an active adult is between 1.2-1.5 mg daily. Dietary sources include pork, nuts, beans, peas, brown rice, egg yolks, asparagus, broccoli and raisins. It’s important to note, however, that B1 is often lost during food preparations in which the cooking water is discarded. A simple way to maintain the B1 content is to try soups and stews that combine some of the above ingredients—it’s a delicious way to enjoy the flavor and nutrients our bodies need.

    Supplementation is also an excellent way to support your body’s thiamine needs. Try taking a quality B-complex supplement and a food-based multivitamin every day to ensure your daily B1 needs are met.

    The Nutrition Desk Reference, by Robert Garrison and Elizabeth Somer

    Elizabeth Willis is a Certified Clinical Nutritionist and Herbalist. She has a private practice in Boulder, Colo., and also works at Pharmaca’s downtown Boulder location. Elizabeth specializes in a holistic approach by connecting her clients with the more dynamic roles of food and nutrition. She believes that by eliminating food intolerances, building optimal nutrition and working directly with the emotional body, it is possible to greatly revive one’s health by reconnecting body with spirit.

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