How much vitamin D?

Official estimates suggest one in five adults and one in six children in England may have vitamin D3 deficiency.

Vitamin D is an essential fat soluble vitamin that contributes to the maintenance of normal bones, teeth and muscles*. It is used to support the normal function of the immune system and the process of cell division.* Vitamin D also is required for the normal absorption and utilisation of calcium and phosphorous, and normal blood calcium levels.*

For most people, the bulk of their required vitamin D3 is made from the action of sunlight on their skin. Sunlight contains ultraviolet B radiation. During and after the European summer, levels of vitamin D3 in the blood are a bit higher and sometimes scientifically ‘normal’. A healthy, balanced diet is always recommended and with exposure to summer sunshine, many people may get enough of the vitamin D they need.

However, during autumn and winter, sunlight is in short supply, particularly in the northern European countries.

People are also at risk of vitamin D deficiency and need extra help with reaching those vitamin D targets because they have dark skin, are elderly living in care homes, or wear clothing that cover most the skin, which effects conversion of sunlight to vitamin D.

Unfortunately having more sunshine until you burn is not a safe option of getting more vitamin D made in the body.  You must wear sunscreen in the UK.

Government report on vitamin D supplements:

  • Everyone over the age of four should take 10 micrograms of vitamin D every day, particularly in Autumn and Winter.
  • Pregnant and breastfeeding women and at-risk groups should take 10 micrograms of vitamin D per day all year round
  • Children between the age of one and four should take 10 micrograms of vitamin D supplements every day, all year round
  • All babies from birth up to one year of age should take 8.5 to 10 micrograms of vitamin D per day (particularly those being breastfed).

Treating vitamin D deficiency requires far higher doses.

In addition of course, limited amounts of the vitamin are found in foods such as oily fish, liver, eggs, milk, fortified cereals and fat spreads with added vitamin D. Unfortunately however, it would be near impossible for us to obtain high enough levels of vitamin D through diet without supplementation.

Altruvita vitamin D contains 25 micrograms in 1 vegetarian capsule.

* EU REGISTERS ON NUTRITION AND HEALTH CLAIMS

Photo by Haley Hamilton on Unsplash

Indoor air pollution getting on your wick?

The stresses of daily life are continuing to take their toll on many of us, so it’s little wonder that candles are as popular as ever. This week I even saw scented Christmas candles being advertised on prime time TV. There’s nothing like turning the lights out and breathing in the smell of vanilla and spice or gingerbread biscuits.

But while sniffing your favourite candle before bed often offers stress relief, many are made of nasty stuff, which can be really harmful. This is because they contribute to indoor air pollution (along with log fires, glue, paint, varnish, oil, flame retardants and dyes etc). The World Health Organisation say 4.3 million premature deaths were attributable to household air pollution in 2012. When indoor and outdoor air pollution are combined, WHO estimates that in 2012, some 14% of deaths were due to COPD or acute lower respiratory infections, and 14% of deaths were due to lung cancer.

Finding candles that are totally free of nasty chemicals can be tricky, especially as front labels often make it hard to distinguish what is and isn’t natural (a “blend” may mean a mixture of natural and synthetic ingredients, for example). 

So what are most candles made from?

Paraffin. When burned, paraffin wax (made from the residue leftover from oil refining) creates toxic benzene and toluene chemicals, both of which are known carcinogens. They are classed as volatile organic compounds (VOC’s- which you see a percentage for on paint tins). They are linked to cancer and neurological damage.  It means that breathing them in is as bad for your health as second-hand smoke. If you suffer from headaches when a candle is burning, it may well be down to the paraffin. Some candles even contain lead in the wick. Check with the candle’s manufacturer for a list of ingredients.

What’s better than paraffin?

As a renewable resource, soy candles are the real slow burners- more hours for your money! But while soy candles are certainly superior to the toxic fragrances and additives in conventional candles, it’s worth noting that most soy is genetically modified. Unless it boasts the certified organic label, it’s likely that your candle is made from GM soy. Is that a good or bad thing? Nobody knows!

The best of a bad bunch; beeswax is the only naturally occurring wax on earth, unless you count ear wax ….(Hmmm). Pure beeswax candles are non-toxic, non-polluting and may actually cleanse indoor air of odours and allergens. They also smell of yummy honey too so win win!

What about the scent?

Smells like… vanilla and cinnamon, nope its…

Phthalates? If you’re smelling fragrance, then there’s probably phthalates in your candle. These artificial scents and dyes often used can also release harmful chemicals when burned, possibly triggering asthma attacks and allergies. Do you sneeze or get wheezy with candles It is known that phthalates are widespread contaminants in both indoor and outdoor environments with the plastic industry being a major contributor. The toxicants can be delivered into the body via inhalation and other methods, then cause an inflammatory response, disrupt hormones and affect respiratory health.

If you want scented, I’m afraid you have to pay for pure essential oil fragrances.  If you ever wondered why some candles are so expensive, it because they aren’t made out of cheap rubbish.

Particular botanicals and nutrients from food have been tested in combatting all sorts of nasty bits floating around in our air, so have a look at our website!

Photo by Daiga Ellaby on Unsplash

Vitamin E

Vitamin E is one of your most powerful fat-soluble vitamin which relies heavily on fat absorption to get sufficient blood levels. The majority of vitamin E is stored in your fat cells with smaller amounts found in the heart, muscles, reproductive organs, and the adrenal and pituitary glands. D-alpha-tocopherol is the natural form, and the most abundant and biologically active form of vitamin E (the synthetic version of vitamin E is less biologically active).

Vitamin E contributes to the protection of cells from oxidative stress.* Vitamin E is a key player in the body’s antioxidant network where it prevents free radical damage and oxidation from occurring, and once it has been used to neutralise free radicals, it can be recycled over and over again with the help of other antioxidants such as curcumin, coenzyme Q10, vitamin C, glutathione and alpha Lipoic acid. 

Short term high doses of vitamin E can be useful in treating deficiency and a number of health problems which are caused by oxidative damage to a variety of body cells.

* EU REGISTERS ON NUTRITION AND HEALTH CLAIMS 

Know the facts on air pollution?

Statistics show that 1.25 million deaths are caused by road traffic accidents per year, 3.5 million are caused by diabetes, and 7 MILLION are the consequence of air pollution.  (Reference, 21 Lessons for the 21st Century by Yuval Noah Harari.)

 

Shocked?

 

Environmental pollutants are a global health problem, associated with the development of many chronic diseases. Exposure to pollutants may increase our chances of serious illness, thanks to the effects of pollutants on the parts of our cells linked with inflammation, cardiac injury and oxidative damage.

There is a growing body of evidence based research to show that the food we eat can both positively and negatively influence the toxic effects of pollutants on our health. Recent studies suggest that nutrients like EGCG in green tea can protect against the inflammation caused by pollutants. Increasing our intake of antioxidants, such as vitamin E, and polyunsaturated fats, like Omega 3 oils, may help manage chronic conditions like asthma. This is especially important if you live in a high-risk area and eat a lot of processed foods.

For those of us who live and exercise in polluted cities, or eat fish products from polluted seas and rivers, specific nutrients to help combat this damage could have real benefits. ‘Personalised nutrition’ is on the horizon, and pollution exposure will soon form part of lifestyle assessments. You can start to personalise your own nutrition now by changing your diet to help fight the effects of pollution.

 

Vitamin D

We all need vitamin D, not only to live but to help prevent a variety of medical conditions and diseases including osteoporosis, depression, brain functioning problems, bowel inflammation and related issues. If people exposed their skin to daily sunlight there would be no need for a dietary or supplementary intake, however as our skin ages, consumption is more and more important as skin becomes less able to react to sunlight.

Our current European recommendation is to consume 5μg of vitamin D3 a day, however the new draft from the UK Scientific Advisory Committee on Nutrition guidelines suggest that everyone should take 10μg as a supplement every day, that’s 400IU of vitamin D3. It is possible to overdose and people should not exceed around 10,000 IU per day.

Although supplements supply a guaranteed whack of vitamin D, other sources that are promoted most frequently are fish because of their beneficial oils. Does anyone really know how much is in a fish and what fish to choose though?

Fish and fish products are regarded as the major dietary source of vitamin D. National food composition databases show values in the range of 0 to over 300 μg/kg of fish and fish products. A fish liver has the highest content with some as high as 1200 μg/kg of vitamin D.

The highest non liver amounts were found in fresh eel and shiokara, a Japanese fish product. The lowest are seen in highly processed fish. The vitamin D-3 content of the frozen fish and fish products ranged between <2 (shrimp) and 196 μg/kg (roe of vendace)

Contrary to general belief, vitamin D content may depend on the diet (i.e., the vitamin D-3 content of zooplankton and there is no significant correlation between fat and vitamin D content of fish ie it doesn’t matter how ‘oily’ the fish is!

So how much fish would you need every day to get the newly recommended 10 μg /400IU extra vitamin D3 per day?

  • ½ tsp codliver oil
  • 1.5 ounces of pink canned salmon
  • 2 ounces of cooked fresh swordfish
  • 2 ounces of fresh mackerel
  • 2.5 ounces of rainbow trout
  • 3 ounces of fresh sockeye salmon
  • 6 ounces of canned tuna, drained
  • Over 8 ounces of cod
  • 17 sardines, canned in oil and drained

So have a look at the above and you’ll see it’s quite hard and also expensive to attain extra vitamin D! This is probably why the government state a supplement and not food!

#reduceyourrisk

Xanthohumol and ageing

Aging is associated with a deregulation of biological systems that lead to an increase in oxidative stress, among other effects. Xanthohumol is the main preylated chalcone present in hops, whose antioxidative properties, amongst others, have been shown in recent years.

In the most recent study published in the European Journal of Nutrition, the possible protective effects of xanthohumol on liver alterations associated with aging were evaluated. Half the artificially aged mice were treated with 5mg/kg/d of xanthohumol. A significant increase in protein levels of oxidative stress and proliferative markers were shown in old non-treated mice. The mice treated with xanthohumol did not have these changes associated with liver ageing. An earlier study published in the Journal of Cosmetic Science investigated xanthohumol as a skin anti-aging agent via its beneficial regulation of matrix surrounding skin cells. When Xanthohumol was applied to skin cells, it showed potential to improve skin structure and firmness: it simultaneously inhibits the activities of elastase- the enzyme that breaks down the elasticity of skin, and stimulates the biosynthesis of fibrillar collagens, elastin, and fibrillins.

Other studies such as that published in the Journal of Nutritional Biochemistry are now showing that xanthohumol treatment modulated the biological processes, exerting a protective effect on brain damage induced by aging.

The antioxidative properties of xanthohumol strengthen body cells in fighting oxidation induced aging*.

* EU Registers on nutrition and health claims and EFSA Article 13.1 botanicals on hold list.

Choose Curcumin For a Boost to Mind and Body

Have you ever tried to get rid of a turmeric stain from clothes or your kitchen counter? It resists the fiercest scrubbing. But it may be some consolation to know that the power of turmeric is not limited to its colour.

Part of the ginger family, turmeric has been used for generations, not only to boost flavour in cooking, but also to support wellbeing. The success of turmeric in treating ailments is believed to be thanks to curcumin, a natural chemical compound found in it. And the more we get to know about it, the more evidence seems to support the choice of curcumin for a boost to mind and body.

Curcumin has antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties, and has been shown to have benefits for the bowel, breast, pancreas and liver. Antioxidants fight against free radicals in the body, which damage cells and contribute to disease. Many studies have revealed that curcumin also works with the nervous system, including the brain, and there has been further research to see whether curcumin could be used to treat depression.

While turmeric, and therefore curcumin, is common in Indian and South Asian cooking, the typical Western diet could benefit from more. We know that, for curcumin to be absorbed into the body effectively, it’s best either eaten with fat or heated in oil before it is eaten. Mixing it with small amounts of olive or rapeseed oil (high in essential fats) is probably the best option. However, for curcumin to have an impact in our bodies, we need to keep enough of it in the blood and it can be difficult to get this much from diet alone.

Scientists continue to study curcumin to try and understand the full extent of its promise. In the meantime, the nutritional evidence firmly supports the inclusion of curcumin in our diets, especially where we have specific health concerns.

Altruvita Curcumin+ contains use CurcuWIN® a form of curcumin that is 46 times more absorbable than standard curcumin**.

Happy Brain, Happy Tum

If you’ve ever uttered the words, ‘I’ve got a gut feeling about this’ or ‘I’ve got butterflies in my stomach’, you’ll understand the connection between your gut and your brain. What you may not know is that there is a real biological link between them.

The gut is home to an important part of the nervous system, and contains over 100 million nerve cells. These line the gastrointestinal tract, and help digest food and control blood flow. They are the reason we can ‘feel’ what is happening in the gut.

The gut is also home to part of the immune system, in the form of gut bacteria. These bacteria also communicate with the nerve cells.

One of the most common causes of discomfort during the digestive process is stress. Typically, once the stressful stimuli go away, your gut will return to normal. But ongoing stress can cause chronic inflammation, increasing the harmful bacteria in your gut.

Inflammation is a leading cause of many diseases, including type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular disease and cancer, which is why it is so important to control it. The right nutrition can be very helpful in reducing inflammation in the body, but how do you achieve it?

A good place to start is with your levels of vitamin D3. Vitamin D is responsible for the normal function of the immune system, so see your GP for a blood test if you suspect you have changes to your gut health or you don’t get enough sunshine. You may be advised to take a supplement if deficiency is found.

Botanical extracts like green tea are known to have antioxidant properties and may maintain healthy gut flora. It can be drunk as tea, or taken as a green tea polyphenol supplement.

Curcumin, the extract from the Indian spice turmeric may contribute to digestive comfort and is an excellent antioxidant and anti-inflammatory agent. Turmeric, in the form of powder or fresh root, can be added to stews, curries and vegetables, and also to nut milk for a warming, latte-style drink.

Altruvita Happy Tum contains vitamin D, curcumin and green tea. Click here to find out more.

Photo by Marcus Wallis on Unsplash

Our 10 Top Tips for Digestive Comfort

If you’ve ever suffered from bloating after a big meal, you’ll know how uncomfortable and unpleasant it is. Bloating happens when the gut stores up excess gas, produced by bacteria. It can affect anyone, but it needn’t make you change your plans or affect every day activities. Take a look at our top tips to support gut health and digestive comfort.

  1. Trial avoiding vegetables like cabbage, cauliflower, broccoli, onions and leeks for a week.
  2. Cut back on pulses like dry roasted peanuts, beans and lentils for a week.
  3. Take a probiotic for four weeks: put some lactobacilli and bifidobacteria in your gut.
  4. Avoid sweeteners like glycerol, sorbitol, mannitol or xylitol as gut bacteria love to munch on them!
  5. Slow down and avoid swallowing air! Take at least 15 minutes to eat a meal.
  6. Get tested for vitamin D3 deficiency.
  7. Drink green tea or peppermint tea. Green tea may maintain healthy gut flora.
  8. Try lactose-free milk and dairy products for 2-4 weeks: large doses of lactose may cause wind and bloating in a small amount of the population. 
  9. Add curcumin to your diet: it’s known to contribute to digestive comfort.
  • Don’t go too long between meals or chew chewing gum: an empty stomach produces more gas.

Photo by Thought Catalog on Unsplash

Digest This!

What we eat affects all our organs, but it’s the gut that has to deal most directly with our dietary choices. A poor diet, high in processed foods, can cause constipation and inflammation, and could lead to more serious conditions.

How do we look after our gut? The traditional Mediterranean diet (without the processed meats) is one answer: high in fruit, vegetables and omega-3 oils, but low in saturated fat, sugar and processed food.

We can also show our gut some love by eating individual nutrients that support gut health.

Curcumin is a compound from the spice turmeric and can reduce inflammation and support digestive comfort. Turmeric isn’t only good in curries – it’s also great sprinkled on eggs and green vegetables, and stirred into milk as a night time drink.

Green Tea contains antioxidant compounds and is a good choice to replace our regular tea or coffee. It may also help maintain healthy gut flora.

Eat a rainbow diet, full of different coloured vegetables, fruit, wholegrains and pulses. Fibre helps the bowel to contract and each colour provides us with different nutrients.

Pre- and pro-biotics: prebiotic foods like onions, Jerusalem artichokes, garlic, asparagus and chicory are favourites of the bacteria that live in our guts. And the live bacteria found in probiotic yogurts, drinks and supplements are super-friendly to our digestive systems.

Get more calcium from foods like green vegetables, dairy products and some fish. It’s good for our bowels and strengthens our bones at the same time.

Part of our immune system is in the gut, as gut bacteria. Vitamin D deficiency is linked to immune health. We need more Vitamin D than we usually get from sunlight and we can boost our intake through oily fish, egg yolks and fortified dairy products.

And of course…

Don’t forget to exercise.

Physical activity is great because it gets the bowel moving. We might not want to think about it too much, but the longer waste sits in our bowels, the more likely we are to develop problems.

Photo by Taylor Kiser on Unsplash