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Essential Vitamins Can Pose Risks When Overdone for Seniors

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It’s not uncommon to find seniors reaching for a bottle of vitamins; in fact, a 2021 AARP survey found that 78 percent of adults 50 and older depend on these supplements, and with those 65 and above, the percentage increases to 83. While vitamins prove beneficial in treating deficiencies, the elderly population needs to be aware of potential interactions with medications and the consequences of overconsumption – which, in some cases, can be deadly. Below are five common vitamins that, while essential, can wreak havoc when taken in excess.

Vitamin A

This vitamin is essential for vision, the immune system, and cell division. Most people get sufficient vitamin A, also known as retinol, through their diet. Women should ideally consume 700 micrograms of retinol activity equivalents (RAE) per day and men should get 900 mcg RAE, as per the National Institutes of Health (NIH).

However, an overdose of vitamin A is stored in the body and could cause toxicity in the liver.

“You can have some acute symptoms like nausea, vomiting, vertigo, blurry vision,” says Matthew Farrell, M. D., a family medicine physician at Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center. Severe symptoms may include severe headaches, muscle aches, and coordination problems. At its worst, too much vitamin A increases cerebral spinal fluid pressure, leading to drowsiness, coma, and even death.

According to Lauren Haggerty, a clinical pharmacist at Johns Hopkins Medicine, excessive vitamin A can cause damage if you already have liver issues, emphasizing the importance of staying within the safe upper limit for adults, which is 3,000 mcg, as defined by the NIH.

Vitamin D

Vitamin D is essential for absorbing calcium, but overdosing on this vitamin can lead to hypercalcemia – a condition where the calcium level in your blood becomes alarmingly high. In an unfortunate instance in 2023, an 89-year-old British man lost his life to an overdose of Vitamin D supplements.

Fat-Soluble Vitamins: A, D, E, and K

The vitamins that are best absorbed with meals containing healthy fats are Vitamins A, D, E, and K. However, these vitamins, being fat-soluble, build up in the system and can cause toxicity when consumed in excess.

“We definitely want people to be cautious with these because they will just build up in the system, and those are the ones that can cause more toxicity,” warns Wendolyn Gozansky, M. D., a geriatrician and chief quality officer with Kaiser Permanente.

Unnecessary Supplements

Many people start a supplement regimen without proper medical consultation. Often, marketing strategies or advice from acquaintances convince people to take supplements they don’t need.

Ideally, the nutrients your body requires should come from a well-balanced diet consisting of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, low-fat proteins, dairy, and beans. It’s much easier, as well as safer, for your body to absorb nutrients through food rather than pills.

“The best way to get your vitamins and minerals is to eat a really well-balanced diet,” Dr. Gozansky suggests.

False Claims

Supplements are often marketed with inflated claims, and what’s more concerning is that the FDA doesn’t regulate the supplement market like it does with medications.

“While there’s some regulation on how they’re produced, the FDA isn’t really reviewing them to make sure that they’re safe or effective before they go to market,” says Haggerty. She also warns that companies often claim their supplements will prevent heart diseases, even when there’s no evidence to support such bold proclamations.

Vitamins are vital for our bodies to function optimally, but as with everything else, moderation is key. Although the figures indicate that vitamin use is common among seniors, it’s paramount to focus on a varied and balanced diet, which should provide all the necessary nutrients. Remember, it’s always wise to consult with a healthcare professional before starting any supplement routine. After all, we want these golden years to be not just golden, but also healthy and enjoyable.

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Understanding Abdominal Pain: Causes, Relief, and When to Seek Help

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Experiencing abdominal pain can be due to a myriad of reasons, ranging from something as mundane as gas to more significant health conditions like appendicitis or Crohn’s disease. Recognizing the intensity of the pain and location within the abdomen can significantly aid in diagnosis.

The abdomen, situated between the chest and pelvis, is often where this discomfort occurs. Manifestations of such discomfort range from crampy, achy, and dull feelings to intermittent or sharp pains. It’s a remarkably common issue within the United States, with up to 1 in 4 people affected by this gastrointestinal symptom.

While the discomfort is typically transient, resolving with dietary changes and lifestyle modifications, it can also be chronic or indicative of a potentially drastic, life-threatening condition requiring immediate medical care.

“Determining the correct treatment for abdominal pain will ultimately depend on the root cause. This can involve a combination of natural remedies, medications, and, in more serious cases, surgical intervention,” says an expert on the topic. For instance, the fleeting pain caused by bloating might not necessitate medical treatment.

There are instances where over-the-counter (OTC) medications can alleviate abdominal discomfort, such as cramps, bloating, and nausea. However, appendicitis that results in severe pain might need a more robust treatment plan involving antibiotics and potentially an appendectomy, a surgical procedure to remove the appendix.

A healthcare professional is instrumental in creating the most effective treatment plan. While there are plenty of home remedies available to help soothe abdominal pain, it’s critical to consult a medical professional before trying anything new, as what works for one person may not necessarily work for another. Always remember health is an individual journey, and taking into account personal medical history is crucial for effective treatment.

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Unlocking the Parkinson’s Puzzle: Vital Vitamin Links Revealed

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Parkinson’s disease, a neurodegenerative disorder whose precise origins continue to elude the scientific community, may have a new suspect in its etiology: vitamin deficiencies. While physicians and scientists have long hypothesized that an interplay between genetic and environmental factors contributes to the disease’s onset, new findings suggest a possible role for the absence of certain vitamins.

A recent study undertaken in May 2024, published in the Parkinson’s Disease journal, endeavored to uncover “gut microbial features” prevalent in individuals diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease. The research involved a meta-analysis of fecal matter from a group of 94 diagnosed Parkinson’s patients, juxtaposed with 73 healthy individuals hailing from Japan. The data from this study was compared with earlier studies carried out in the U.S., Germany, China, and Taiwan.

The study’s findings were illuminating. It appears that those suffering from Parkinson’s disease were lacking in bacterial genes, which may cause a deficiency in two B vitamins, namely riboflavin (B2) and biotin (B7). The researchers stated: “Pathway analysis showed that genes in the biosyntheses of riboflavin and biotin were markedly decreased in Parkinson’s disease after adjusting for confounding factors.”

Riboflavin, known as B2 vitamin, is a component of the B-complex vitamins and is commonly found in a variety of food items including meats, fortified grains, and nuts, as confirmed by the Cleveland Clinic. “Riboflavin is an essential micronutrient that helps cells develop and work well,” says registered dietitian Kayla Kopp, RD. “Healthy bacteria in your gut microbiome make small amounts of riboflavin. But your body needs more to function. That’s why it’s important to get enough of this B vitamin in your diet every day.”

Significantly, the study also highlighted how riboflavin has been shown to improve conditions such as “oxidative stress, mitochondrial dysfunction, neuroinflammation, and glutamate excitotoxicity,” all of which are associated with Parkinson’s disease onset.

Biotin, or B7, is another B-complex vitamin that supports vital bodily functions. It is found in foods like meat, eggs, fish, seeds, nuts, and certain vegetables. The study notes that biotin produces anti-inflammatory substances and has the ability to decrease inflammation, providing relief from symptomatic allergies, immunological symptoms, and inflammatory bowel disease.

Given the implications of these vitamin deficiencies on health, the researchers suggest that introducing vitamin B supplements might be beneficial to Parkinson’s patients. In their words, “Supplementation of riboflavin and/or biotin is likely to be beneficial in a subset of Parkinson’s disease patients, in which gut dysbiosis plays pivotal roles.”

Nonetheless, it is critical to exercise caution before hastily adopting the study’s conclusions. “I think these data are much too premature to warrant therapeutic interventions,” warns Tim Sampson, PhD, assistant professor in the department of Cell Biology at Emory University School of Medicine. He emphasizes that these findings just widen the understanding of how the gut microbiome might be contributing to Parkinson’s disease.

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Endocrinologist Reveals Top Gut Health No-Nos to Live By

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Our gut health is more important than many of us realize. With more than 100 trillion microbes, including bacteria, fungi, yeast, and viruses, the gut microbiome plays a crucial role in how our bodies function and respond to stress, certain foods, and even some medications. Registered dietitian Kristian Kirkpatrick, RD, calls it the ‘second brain,’ thanks to its vast influence on our overall health.

1. Limit Red Meat Intake

Endocrinologist and researcher, Max Nieuwdorp, PhD, highlights the vital role gut microbes play in the production and release of various hormones, affecting our daily processes like mood and metabolism. One of the items Nieuwdorp suggests we limit for optimal gut health is red meat. He told Business Insider, “I try to not eat meat every day.”

While red meat can alter the composition of the gut microbiome, producing “dangerous” metabolites during the digestion process, Scripps Health also warns that a diet centered around red meat may increase risk for diseases such as diabetes, heart disease, stroke, and colorectal cancer due to its high cholesterol, saturated fats, and sodium content.

2. Avoid Ultra-Processed Foods

Nieuwdorp also advocates for reducing the intake of ultra-processed foods, including sweetened breakfast cereals, processed meat, soda, and some frozen ready-to-eat meals. Instead, he recommends prioritizing fresh, additive-free foods.

Gastroenterologist Preeya Goyal, MD, explained in an interview with PIH Health that “ultra-processed foods contain large quantities of saturated fat and trans-fat, added sugar, salt, and food additives that seriously affect the gut and physical health.” Additionally, the consumption of ultra-processed foods can disrupt brain functions.

3. Use Antibiotics Only When Necessary

Lastly, Nieuwdorp suggests using antibiotics only when absolutely necessary. “They drive dysbiosis in the gut,” he said.

Cleveland Clinic explains that dysbiosis means a lack of diversity in the gut’s microorganisms, which can make us vulnerable to infections. An imbalanced gut microbiome can also negatively affect our hormones and other essential microbiome services.

Harnessing the power of hormones for optimal health means nourishing our ‘second brain’ — the gut microbiome. By reducing red meat intake, avoiding ultra-processed foods, and using antibiotics only when necessary, we can better care for our gut health, positively impacting our overall wellbeing. Just like every part of our body, our gut requires thoughtfulness and care. With these tips from Dr. Nieuwdorp, we can take actionable steps to improve our gut health and consequently, our general health.

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