Dr. Allan Spreen answers your nutrition and supplement questions:

Q: I'm a 52 yr old white male. I'm confused on what kind of vitamin supplements to take. I've had an ongoing stomach and lower colon disorder for years.

A: The first thing I think of with reflux and ongoing digestive problems is lack of the normal 'good guy' bacteria (probiotics) that should be in the gut area in large numbers. These are also called acidophilus.

I start with 1/4 tsp of acidophilus powder before meals and bedtime, but I also give it anytime someone 'needs' an antacid. It tends to have the same affect but without killing the acid we all need to adequately digest food.

I noticed a pile of medications in your history. Most people feel better if they can handle at least some of those problems naturally. I've seen diet bring down highly elevated triglycerides, agents like magnesium or Sleepy Time tea (Celestial Seasonings) or melatonin (3mg) permit comfortable non-drugged sleep, and other fixes along natural lines. You might try finding a nutritionally oriented practitioner and see what's recommended. In any case, a doc should be monitoring.

Q: I am 46yr old male, relatively active. I would like to know what would be the optimal vitamin/mineral product to take. I currently take Super Earth® Formula by Bluebonnet.

A: I have several favorites, some of which depend upon where you are. However, in general, I use supplements much stronger than 100% RDA types(basically useless, in my opinion). I never use time release (made to not give contents to you), and I stay with capsules so you know they'll break down.

One of my favorites right now is Synergy, from www.vitacost.com. It is not the cheapest and it's 6/day, but it's terrific. The absolute best is Life Extension Formula (www.lef.org), but this one's 14 capsules/day and very expensive, so it's for the serious health nut.

No multi's have adequate vitamin C for an active individual (again in my opinion). I add 1000 milligrams twice/day (minimum) of any capsule form C to the multi. A product that contains citrus bioflavonoids is even better.

Q: I am a 16 year old male and I want to know if there is a pill or something to make me gain weight.

A: The best thing I've seen in gaining weight for teenagers is the addition of digestive enzymes to a higher protein diet, though the former doesn't seem related to the problem.

My observation has been that poor digestion from eating too quickly or without adequate enzymes for absorption (and eating too much junk that doesn't help make muscle), keeps you from building up adequate muscle tissue.

I came up with this in myself first, and found it successful in my practice, though results are slow (the way they should be).

  1. Eat slowly and chew thoroughly;
  2. Avoid sugar and white flour products that quickly kill appetite and offer 'naked' calories that are useless for gaining desirable weight;
  3. Eat multiple high protein snacks during the day, such as nuts, seeds, cheese, etc., not chips, fries, etc. I use Super Enzyme, by TwinLab® 2 at mid-meal, since this product has all the enzymes at once.
Q: What foods and supplements can I use to increase my testoserone level?

A: The most prominent agent for doing such a thing is the herb Serenoa repens, after which the drug Proscar® was formulated (though it's not as good). The herb increases the amount of testosterone compared to dihydrotestosterone - an agent you'd like to minimize in the body. Pygeum africanum helps do the same thing.

In terms of sexual activity, sometimes assisting the presence of nitric oxide is as important as increasing testosterone levels. This is done with other herbs, such as yohimbine, Aveena sativa (green oat extract), Muira puama, and maca root.

In any endeavor such as the above, check with your health care professional first, but seeking one that understands herbal, nutrient, and other natural efforts would be a plus.