While most of us have heard about the benefits of taking vitamins and dietary supplements, knowing what to take - and when to use it - can be confusing at best. But with the new year under way, now is a good time to begin getting healthier. By listening to some expert advice on what vitamins you need - and following a good diet and exercise regimen - chances are you'll be feeling better in a short time.
Taking supplements is becoming consistently more important in the United States, according to Tracy Taylor, executive director of the Natural Products Foundation, which also encompasses the Dietary Supplement Education Alliance.
Taylor, who works in Washington, D.C., says that 190 million Americans use supplements.
"Obviously, taking a multivitamin is the most popular thing to do as far as supplements go," she says.
"We can get anything we need from food, but that rarely happens. This is America, and everyone is busy. The American Medical Association recommends that every adult and child take a multivitamin. Taking a multivitamin is going to make sure you get essential nutrients every day."
In Springfield, Dr. Chris Reid, a chiropractor and diplomate of the American Clinical Board of Nutrition, agrees with Taylor, but advocates eating as well as possible.
"Everyone should take a multiple vitamin-mineral supplement. It is an absolute necessity," says Reid, who owns Reid Chiropractic and Nutrition Center.
"Most multivitamins are going to state that they contain a lot of the basics that everybody needs. However, I'm not a big fan of food-grade vitamins," he says.
"You have to ask yourself, 'If they sell it for this cheap amount and spend millions of dollars to market it, how good can it be?'
"Then there are a class of vitamins that are made by companies that are pharmaceutically licensed. Those are the ones that I carry, the vitamins that I take and that I have my family take. Understand as in anything else, you get what you pay for."
One of Reid's favorite vitamin companies is called Integrative Therapeutics.
"The gentleman who originally designed these is a world-renowned naturopath, and he designed them for age groups and gender," Reid says. "I carry different brands, too, from a lot of pharmaceutical companies - but they are all high quality. What I personally try to do is get the best vitamin I can for the most cost-effective price for my patients. I'm here to deliver a service, and that is to help people get healthy."
The need for vitamins has been studied extensively. The best time to take vitamins and minerals is with meals. Vitamins taken between meals sometimes cause stomach upset and may not be absorbed as well.
"There are studies showing that most of the chronic diseases that we as Americans suffer from are due to nutritional deficiencies, which I find very sad considering we are the wealthiest country in the world," Reid says.
"The last time that I checked, according to the Centers for Disease Control, we are ranked 37th of all countries regarding health. Think about that - the wealthiest country in the world ranking number 37. That's a sad statement for the current state of our health in the United States."
Reid decides what he needs by using a science-based nutrition test.
"Once a year, I test my own hair, blood and urine to see specifically what vitamins I need and the amounts that I need. I have that available in my practice, and to the best of my knowledge, I'm the only one in Springfield who offers it. It's for people who are really interested in fine-tuning their nutritional health and really want to optimize their health."
The science-based nutrition test, which Reid calls "the Rolls-Royce of nutritional health," is not for everyone. "There aren't a lot of people out there really wanting to do that because it is an investment. I do that for myself because I am interested in being my best and am always looking for ways to maximize my health.
"I think we all want to be healthy, but we just don't quite know how to get there," he says.
"That's my job. More people need to know how to get healthy and to get enough confidence in themselves to take their health into their own hands."
Reid says he is no stranger to feeling ill. In his mid-20s, while he was working as a civil engineer, he suffered from daily headaches, bulging discs and sciatica.
"My body was literally falling apart, and I was scared," he remembers.
It was only after Reid began chiropractic treatment that he regained his health. That's when he decided to return to college to become a chiropractor - and later a nutrition expert.
"I get a general sense in the people I deal with - and being there myself in my mid-20s - that there is a lot of fear out there about the chronic disease like cancer, diabetes and heart disease. My frustration is that our health as Americans is not improving - it's actually getting worse as time goes on."
Patients who are interested in regaining health sometimes come to Reid for nutritional consultations.
"There are so many questions out there," he says. " For example, 'What can I do to possibly prevent getting cancer?' Well, from everything that I've been reading, cancer is largely associated with nutritional deficiencies.
"Weight is also a huge issue in our society. People aren't getting thinner. Obesity has gone through the roof, even in children, which is a sad statement about what we're doing. If we were doing the right things would our health be the way it is today? Obviously something is wrong, but no one is really addressing it."
The body requires nutrition to survive, Reid explains. If people eat a large amount of processed food, they not only gain weight, but they are literally starving their bodies.
"So they're getting calories, but they're not getting nutrition," Reis says. "They are not getting the vitamins and nutrients they need to survive, and therefore their bodies are in a constant state of hunger.
"Everything you put in your mouth is your choice. If you truly want to be healthy, you can make better choices. It's a matter of education."
At 6-foot-5, Reid describes himself as "Fit, not thin" and challenges his own patients to stand as straight as he does - which will also benefit their health.
Gaining good health involves knowing the right information and applying it, Reid says.
"What I tell my patients is, 'This is not rocket science.' My job is to get people the right information, if they are willing to hear it.
"We Americans are (nutritionally) deficient. End of story," Reid concludes.
"And it's showing up in the status of our health."
Want more info?
For more information on vitamins and what they can do for you, check out www.supplementinfo.org or Reid's Web site www.ReidFamilyWellness.com
Drink of choice
Glance around the bottled water aisle at the grocery store and chances are you'll find shelves filled with sports drinks in all colors and flavors. They look cool, and some even taste great, but do you really need them?
According to Dr. Chris Reid, chiropractor and diplomate of the American Clinical Board of Nutrition, the average exerciser probably doesn't require a sports drink for rehydration. Water is sufficient for their workouts, along with a proper diet.
However, if you are a serious athlete and your workout lasts more than 60 minutes, sports drinks probably couldn't hurt. For high-intensity, hot-climate or long-duration workouts, choose one that contains some carbohydrates and some sodium chloride.
The carbohydrate helps maintain training intensity because it is the primary energy used during exercise. Sodium chloride is necessary because it helps to stimulate water intake and retention as well as carbohydrate uptake.
Because even average exercisers sometimes just get tired of drinking water, using a simple electrolyte powder is fine. Try carrying a powder that can be added to your own water bottle.
If you are an average exerciser who is totally baffled by all the choices, try Ultima Replenisher Electrolyte Powder or Emergen-C Adult Multivitamin Powder. More active athletes might try LIV Organic Sports Drink.
Story published Friday, January 9, 2009 ( Volume 4, Number 1 )