Vitamin E -- Just the Facts, Ma'am
It is important to understand that we are ultimately responsible for our own well-being and should do whatever is necessary to maintain our health and assist our bodies in resisting and fighting disease. Since health practitioners agree that vitamins are essential for life and health, we must ensure that we receive adequate amounts for our bodies to function properly and to protect us from illnesses. Vitamin E is one of the vitamins to which we should pay particular attention.
A vitamin is an organic substance essential for life that regulates metabolism and assists the processes that release energy from digested food. Vitamin E, discovered in the mid-twentieth century, assists in strengthening our immune systems and helps protect us from a variety of problems as well as several serious illnesses. This vitamin can be obtained from food or supplements.
There are two kinds of vitamins and both are needed by the body. Vitamin E, like vitamins A, D, and K, is a fat-soluble vitamin that can be stored within the body in fatty tissue. Vitamin B complex and vitamin C are water-soluble vitamins that cannot be stored and the excess amounts are excreted in the urine. Fat-soluble vitamins -- with the exception of vitamin A -- are measured in international units (IUs), and studies by the U.S. government's National Institute on Aging have shown that at least 200 IUs daily of vitamin E are needed to garner any significant benefits from taking this vitamin.
How Does It Help?
- Vitamin E is a powerful antioxidant that protects tissue against free radicals. Free radicals are unstable molecules that usually contain oxygen and can interaction with DNA and other molecules leading to an impaired cell function. Vitamin E, one of the chemical compounds that prevents oxygen from reacting with other compounds, neutralizes free radicals, and is, therefore, one of the body's natural defenses against cancer and cardiovascular disease.
- Vitamin E is also important in the formation of red blood cells and helps the body use vitamin K. Vitamin E improves circulation, is necessary in the repair of tissue, promotes normal blood clotting and healing, and can reduce scarring, too.
- Women find it useful in the treatment of premenstrual syndrome and fibrocystic disease of the breast.
- Older adults take it to help reduce blood pressure, relax leg cramps, help prevent cataracts, and, perhaps, to assist in reducing age spots.
- Vitamin E also helps prevent anemia, maintains healthy nerves and muscles, and promotes healthy skin and hair.
Where Do We Find It?
Food sources of vitamin E are nuts (e.g., almonds), sunflower seeds, cold pressed vegetable oils, whole grains (e.g., wheat germ), olives, legumes, and dark and leafy vegetable (e.g., asparagus and spinach). There are also significant quantities of this vitamin in such foods as brown rice, cornmeal, eggs, kelp, milk, and organ meats. Some herb vitamin E sources are alfalfa, bladderwrack, dandelion, flax, nettle, and rose hips.
Vitamin E, like all other vitamins, is not only available from food sources, but also as a supplement. It can be purchased in the form of a tablet, a capsule, or a liquid, and as a powder that can be mixed with water or juice or added to gels or bars. It can also be administered by injection. Read labels carefully so that you purchase only those supplements that have been extracted from a natural food source and have no harmful additives included. A proper balance of vitamins are needed in the body because they work in synergy, or cooperative action, and high doses of one vitamin can induce a depletion of another. You can take vitamin E safely in a one a day multivitamin, or as single vitamin supplement if you wish to take an amount higher than is included in a multivitamin. Visit a vitamin store and watch for the opportunity to purchase your vitamins at a discount.
How Much Do We Need?
The amount of vitamin E you need depends on your age, your weight, and the problems you are trying to solve or prevent. Remember that supplements should be taken daily, and should be taken with food so that you will receive other nutrients to assist in their assimilation. Keep your supplements in a cool, dark place to protect their potency, and take them as part of your mealtime routine:
- To maintain good health, you should take a minimum amount of 200 IUs daily.
- To help lower raised cholesterol levels, especially in young adults, take 300 to 600 IUs daily.
- For reducing menopausal symptoms, take 400 IUs daily.
- To help combat coronary artery disease and poor circulation, take 400 IUs daily.
It is important to understand the different functions of vitamins if you are going to ingest them separately instead of within a multivitamin where the formulation will ensure a proper balance. In the case of vitamin E, there are a variety of concerns of which you should be aware:
- Vitamin E should be taken under medical supervision if you are also taking blood-thinning drugs (anticoagulant medication). Vitamin E acts as a blood thinner, too.
- Remember that vitamin E is a fat-soluble vitamin, and since it will be stored in the body in fatty tissue, it can reach toxic levels. People who decide to take mega-doses of vitamins and don't know what they're doing can suffer from too much of a good thing with this vitamin. If you are taking a multivitamin supplement and a separate vitamin E supplement, make sure you are not taking a toxic dose. Anything over 1200 IUs should not be taken without consulting a health professional.
- Be careful if you take iron as well as vitamin E. These two supplements should be taken at different times of the day because iron in the form of ferrous sulfate will destroy vitamin E. Organic forms of iron such as ferrous gluconate or ferrous fumarate, however, will not harm the vitamin. Read the label and make sure you know which form of iron you are taking.
- Diabetics, people with overactive thyroids, and those with rheumatic heart diseases should be especially careful not to take more than recommended dosages of vitamin E.
- If you suffer from high blood pressure, begin with 200 IUs of vitamin E per day and gradually increase the dose over a period of six weeks until you reach the desired level.
- If you are taking vitamin E, you must also take a minimum dose of zinc as well, and some supplements will include the necessary amount of zinc in the Vitamin E tablet or capsule.
Vitamin E is an important element in our arsenal of disease-battling nutrients, and there is an increasing lack of vitamin E in our diets because of our dependence on processed food and the depletion of nutrients in the soil. Fortunately, supplements allow us to obtain whatever amount of vitamin E we need to keep us healthy.