Many people think of nutrition in general terms, but the specific components of nutrition are fundamental to the proper functioning of the body. The depletion of body nutrient stores is common to many medical conditions or illnesses. Understanding nutrition in its subcomponent parts is useful in planning for the accurate supplementation of deficiencies.
We will consider five subdivisions of nutrition: Vitamins, Minerals, Essential Amino Acids, Fatty acids, and surprisingly, Products of Intestinal Dysbiosis. Space constraints prohibit a full explanation of each of these subcategories. An example from each will demonstrate the importance of identifying specific nutrient deficiencies and repleting them.
Vitamins (Thiamine-Vitamin B1)
Thiamine is essential for the metabolism of carbohydrates and branch chain amino acids, and gives support to the nervous system and mental attitude. Without thiamine, nerves are more sensitive to inflammation. Thiamine is linked to individual learning capacity and to growth in children. It is also important to the muscle tone of the stomach, intestines, and heart because of the function of acetylcholine, a neurotransmitter found at nerve synaptic junctions. In patients suffering from severe deficiency, thiamine is used in the treatment of fatigue, irritability, low morale, depression, and the prevention of air or sea sickness. Thiamine deficiency is often present in chronic alcoholics. Symptoms of low thiamine include: cognitive dysfunction, impairment of sensory, motor, and reflex functions, muscular atrophy, edema, tachycardia, cardiomegaly, and vomiting. Convulsions and death are not uncommon.
Zinc is a cofactor for numerous enzymes. It helps maintain the body’s level of Vitamin A, has a high concentration in the prostate gland and is important to male sex organ function and reproductive fluids, participates in the synthesis of both RNA and DNA. Zinc supports important immune function, and is part of an important enzyme that helps contribute phosphates to bone for better bone structure. It binds a number of transcription factors, stabilizes some hormone receptor complexes, and may have a regulatory role in tubulin polymerization.
Symptoms of low zinc include: hair loss, decreased appetite, poor growth, slow wound healing, fatigue, and rashes.
Essential Amino Acids (Lysine)
Essential amino acids cannot be made in the body but must be obtained through diet. Lysine is used in the treatment of herpes simplex infection, serving as an antiviral treatment, may help reduce anxiety with its effect upon serotonin and the benzodiazepine receptor, along with phototherapy may aid in the treatment of cancer.
Symptoms of low lysine include: hypoglycemia (low blood sugar), anemia, elevated triglycerides, easy fatigability, hair loss, weight loss, irritability, decreased appetite, and weight loss.
Fatty Acids – (DHA (docosahexaenoic acid)
The Omega-3 fatty acids have been shown to improve depression, including the depressive symptoms of bipolar disorder. As anti-inflammatories, they also help the inflammation in asthma, can reduce symptoms of ADHD in some children and improve their mental skills, like thinking, remembering, and learning. They can also help curb joint stiffness and pain in rheumatoid arthritis and seem to boost the effectiveness of anti-inflammatory medications.
DHA (docosahexaenoic acid), a crucial Omega-3 fatty acid, is a primary structural component of the brain, skin, sperm, testicles and retina. It inhibits the growth of colon cancer cells, and may improve mental function in Alzheimer ’s disease.
Symptoms of low DHA include: ADHD (Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder), slow growth, behavioral disorders, oxidative damage, diarrhea, dry or oily hair and skin, and reproductive problems.
Products of Intestinal Dysbiosis (Tricarballylate)
Our gastrointestinal tract contains a wide variety of beneficial bacteria which help maintain the body’s health. Dysbiosis is the abnormal overgrowth of unfavorable microflora in the small and large intestines often caused by the repeated use of antibiotics and/or steroids, malnutrition, or other medical conditions. Pathological bacteria may displace the normal flora and produce chemicals which are distinct toxins and metabolic products that can affect multiple organs. Many of these chemicals deplete certain nutrients in the body.
Tricarballylate caused by intestinal bacterial overgrowth, and/or carbohydrate malabsorption, has a high affinity for magnesium, preventing magnesium absorption. Symptoms of dysbiosis include: diarrhea, constipation, abdominal bloating and/or pain, food intolerance, skin rashes, cognitive deficits, shortness of breath, headaches, muscle aches, allergies, recurrent infections, and chronic fatigue.
Laboratories can use blood and/or urine samples to determine the level of nutrients in the body. This information can serve as an initial guide to nutrient supplementation. However, these levels must always be interpreted in the context of the patient’s overall medical condition, age, sex, weight, environmental exposures, and ultimate health goals.
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Adrienne Sprouse, M. D., a specialist in Environmental Medicine and Toxicology, is the Medical Director of Manhattan Health Consultants environmental medicine center in New York City. Phone (212) 725-5744 Fax (646) 649-2461 Email email@example.com