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Men's Nutrition Questions Answered

See what men need to know about supplements and view more men's health pictures.
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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.

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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.

 

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Q: I recently had a small seizure after taking super carnosine and carnitine for two weeks. I am on Proscar® and Synthroid®, and I take saw palmetto. Any connection?

A: There's not enough information here to know for sure, but specifically blaming carnosine and carnitine is doubtful. L-carnitine is required to move fatty acids across the mitochondrial membrane for burning as energy, and I'm not aware of any toxicities to carnosine (though anything, even water, can be toxic if you take enough).

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Proscar® and saw palmetto do the same thing, though the herb form is far safer. Check with your doc about taking both together. Also, the dose of prescription thyroid is important. Synthroid® has recently (and not so recently) been implicated in multiple problems in humans. I prefer the natural form of thyroid (though still prescription strength), called Armour-type, as it contains all 4 types of thyroid hormone, instead of just one (as in the case of Synthroid®). Check with your doc on that one and make sure you aren't getting too much.

Q: What is vanadium? What is the recommended daily dosage, and what is considered toxic? What is its value? Why supplement an additional 250 mcg a day?

A: Vanadium is a trace element and also a micromineral (a mineral needed in very tiny amounts) for human nutrition.

Though it currently has no established amount needed for human nutrition, studies are consistent suggesting its role in helping with proper glucose metabolism in humans (and animals).

The substance is usually given in a salt form of vanadium called vanadyl sulfate and, like chromium, it apparently augments the effects of insulin, which the body uses to pull glucose out of the bloodstream and into cells.

It doesn't take much; usual doses range from 3 to 25 milligrams/day of vanadyl sulfate (there is no RDA or Recommended Daily Allowance). There are studies done using 100 milligrams/day, but this is excessive.

Some researchers feel the upper limit is 25 milligrams/day, and I see no need to go even that high. Two-hundred fifty micrograms (250)- that's 1/4 of 1 milligram - is a bit low for demonstrable effect, in my opinion, and may be included in a product more to have it on the label than anything else, but that's purely conjecture. Check with your doc.

Q: My husband is 30 years old and has been a diabetic for 23 years. He has taken an interest in a nutritional supplement called Reliv. He has been taking it for a couple of weeks and says he feels pretty good. This company also makes a supplement for children. Our 2-year-old is a very finicky eater and we were interested in providing him with a supplement. What do you know about this product and its maker?

A: Reliv is a proprietary blend of nutrients from non-animal sources, predominantly soy. I have not used the product myself but have heard many anecdotal reports from fellow doctors, patients and body builders concerning their perceived success with it.

The product is nutrient-dense as a food supplement and probably well-absorbed. I am not a big fan of soy so I do not use it, but that's just me.

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Q: What are the side effects of iron?

A: That depends on the iron. Most iron supplements are 'inorganic', such as ferrous sulfate, which is not easily absorbed and can cause symptoms such as abdominal cramping, diarrhea, dark tarry stools, etc.

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Iron is very important to human nutrition and health, but too much and in the wrong form it can be a double-edged sword. There is now impressive research showing a link between too much iron and heart disease, along with possible liver damage, blood sugar problems and other problems.

I use organic iron, such as that found in liver (and dessicated liver tablets), since the molecule is already 'encased' in a heme ring structure as it is in humans. For that reason I avoid supplements using 100% RDA amounts of iron unless the person knows from his lab work that he needs it and his doctor has prescribed it.

For many people that amount is too high and the form is inorganic. However, ask your doctor, as your situation may be different.

Q: Do products like Enzyte really work?

A: Unfortunately I'm not familiar with that product. I do use digestive enzymes heavily, as I find that many adults are deficient and that digestion can be assisted with their use.

I tend to use Super Enzyme by Twinlab- the most, only because they are about the only ones who also add a form of hydrochloric acid to the enzymes. Most (but not all) can use additional acid along with the enzymes, and the antacids many people use tend to make the problem of digestion worse over time.

Q: What are the best multi-vitamin supplements? Also, what is the appropriate dosage for glucosamine/chondroitin?

A: I have my own opinion concerning multi-vitamins. First is that basically everyone needs them. I don't use tablets, as many just don't break down, and I especially don't use time release (they're designed not to release!).

I also don't use 100% RDA types as they are far too weak for anything to be noticed (except for iron, where for most they contain too much), plus they don't have enough other nutrients.

I like multi-vitamin capsules from Solaray and NOW, which are 2/day. For more serious users there are 6/day types that are really good and can be obtained with or without iron, depending on circumstances (I tend to avoid inorganic iron). I then add vitamin C twice/day, since no multi's have enough.

For glucosamine/chondroitin some have decided that the glucosamine is the stronger nutrient. Either way, 1500-2000 milligrams of each is a reasonable range.

Good Health,

Allan Spreen, M.D.

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