The health and medical communities have long acknowledged the benefits of a daily multi-vitamin, particularly for those over the age of 50. Even Medicare has noted decreased costs in caring for patients who take daily multi-vitamins.
As we grow older, the absorption and digestion of proteins and minerals becomes more difficult leading to a variety of ailments such as osteoporosis, fatigue, and chronic illness. We can go a long way towards addressing these concerns by seeking out a few basic nutrients and nutritional supplements.
Five that are essential for anyone over 50 include betaine hydrochloride, B-12, magnesium, Vitamin D, and adequate protein.
Betaine Hydrochloride: Our bodies digest foods less efficiently as we age, yet nutrients from our foods are a critical component to good health. Reasons for poor absorption include the side affects of acid blocking medications such as Prilosec and Prevacid. Another reason for poor absorption is that older people often do not secrete enough stomach acid in their gastrointestinal tract.
Stomach acid is required for absorption. Ironically, many people take medications such as Prilosec for reducing stomach acid, but in reality, stomach acid declines as we age. People think they have stomach acid problems, because their stomach acid backs up in the esophagus due to poor digestion caused by a lack of stomach acid!
In my practice, I have seen patients clear their perceived stomach acid problems by taking betaine hydrochloride, and stopping their intake of acid blocking medications. This may seem paradoxical but the key is to do everything possible to improve your digestive function, and adding stomach acid (betaine hydrochloride) is a very good place to start.
Betaine hydrochloride can support digestion when taken with meals. A betaine hydrochloride supplement can be purchased at health food stores and may be taken in conjunction with digestive enzymes, such as pancreatic enzymes or vegetable enzymes. If you develop warmth or burning in your upper abdomen, then your dose is too high.
Vitamin B-12: Insufficient Vitamin B-12 levels can lead to fatigue, brain fog, and a higher risk of heart disease. Vitamin B-12 is particularly hard to absorb as we age, because we lack the biochemical called intrinsic factor.
Because Vitamin B-12 is difficult for the stomach to absorb, I recommend taking it sublingually (as a lozenge, or as drops under the tongue) so that it can be absorbed through the mouth. A reasonable daily dose for Vitamin B-12 is 500-1000 micrograms (not milligrams). Vitamin B-12 is water soluble, so it is extremely unlikely that you will overdose on this vitamin.
Magnesium: Magnesium is often overlooked and is essential to your cellular health. Eat lots of fruits and vegetables! Kelp provides a rich source of Magnesium. Look for a supplemental green drink that contains seaweed, especially kelp, at your local health food store.
If you are taking calcium, then you need to take magnesium, because calcium competes with magnesium in the body. Your dose of magnesium should be at least as much as your calcium dose. Magnesium malate, glycinate or citrate are more absorbable than magnesium oxide. A reasonable dose is 100-300 mg 2x per day.
Vitamin D: Vitamin D is another essential nutritional supplement. Not only is Vitamin D critical for bone health, but women who have optimal levels of Vitamin D have approximately 50% decreased chance of breast cancer. Studies have shown that most of the population living north of San Francisco is Vitamin D deficient.
Taking 2000 IU's of Vitamin D 3 per day is a reasonable dose particularly in winter. Vitamin D toxicity has been a concern because it is a fat soluble vitamin. However in reality, Vitamin D toxicity is extremely rare. No cases have been documented of Vitamin D toxicity from a daily dosage of 2000 IU's.
Alternatively, you may take cod liver oil daily. Be sure to find quality oil free of toxins. Highly recommended brands are Carlsons and Nordic Naturals Cod Liver Oil.
Protein: The final component for basic nutritional health is simply to include adequate protein in your diet. Choose foods that are rich in high-quality protein, such as organic eggs, free-range chicken and lamb, and ocean wild-caught fish.
Protein deficiency can cause muscle mass to decrease. Also, our brains need protein because the neurotransmitters in our brains are made out of the amino acids from protein. Nuts and legumes contain protein as well, but are not as concentrated as the protein found in meat and animal products.