Author: Anita Flegg
Interactions with medications you are already taking are a possibility even with well tested supplements, so always talk to your doctor before adding anything other than the basic over-the-counter vitamins and minerals.
The Recommended Daily Allowances, or RDAs, are listed where available. Canada and the USA share nutrition research committees and have harmonized RDA numbers. When you see “RDA” before a dosage, that’s the Recommended Daily Allowance for both Canada and the USA. Where “RDA” doesn’t appear, the dosage listed is taken from reputable nutrition catalogues. Dosages are listed with most of the supplements discussed, but in cases where RDAs haven’t yet been determined dosages should be discussed with your health care provider.
If you take no other vitamins, you should at least take your B Vitamins. The B Vitamins combine to improve digestion, thereby increasing your body’s ability to tolerate low glucose levels. They are often billed as “anti-stress” vitamins because of their beneficial effects on the brain and nervous system. They also help improve energy and are very useful in mitigating the symptoms of perimenopause. Take your B Complex plus extra amounts of the following B Vitamins.
*B1 – Thiamine
Thiamine is important for circulation, and assists in blood formation. It is needed for healthy growth and appetite and increases production of hydrochloric acid (HCL) needed for proper digestion. Vitamin B1 also helps with the health and proper function of your brain. Symptoms that you may not be getting enough B1 are mood swings or periodic depression. In severe cases, thiamine deficiency results in Beriberi, a disease of the nervous system.
Dosage: RDA 1.5mg
Vitamin B1 can only be found in whole, unprocessed foods, so many people are deficient in thiamine. Alcohol destroys B1, and even one drink a day can produce a deficiency in some people. Sugar, stress, tobacco, coffee and surgery also destroy thiamine.
*B2 – Riboflavin
Vitamin B2, also called Riboflavin, is required for oxygen use. It helps lungs remove oxygen from the air and moves oxygen into the cells. It works in tandem with other B vitamins to metabolize fats, carbohydrates and proteins. Elderly people need more B2 and so do people who exercise a great deal. Alcoholics are often deficient in Vitamin B2.
Dosage: RDA 1.7mg
Riboflavin is fragile and easily destroyed by processing and by light. While milk is an excellent source of Riboflavin, but when it is sold in light permeable containers, most of the B2 is gone by the time you drink it. Keep in mind that tobacco, sugar, alcohol and coffee all inhibit absorption or use of Vitamin B2, and are all risk factors for a deficiency.
*B3 – Niacin / Niacinamide / Nicotinic Acid
Niacin seems to prevent abnormal drops in blood sugar and has been used with some success to treat alcoholism (alcoholics are often hypoglycemic). Vitamin B3 helps to convert fat to energy and is crucial in the production of the myelin sheath that protects the nerves. It is also needed for the production of insulin and the sex hormones. Niacin helps promote proper digestion by helping with the production of stomach acid and is used in the metabolism of carbohydrates.
Dosage: RDA 20mg
B3 is easily absorbed, but not stored, and stress, prescription drugs and alcohol and drug abuse all remove Niacin from your body, so it is fairly easy to develop a deficiency. Sugar, tobacco, coffee, starch, corn, antibiotics, and birth control pills also reduce the efficacy of niacin.
Niacin is very safe but should not be used if you have liver problems of any kind. It may cause flushing due to histamine it triggers but symptoms are not harmful and will disappear over time. Too much niacin may cause nausea and vomiting and it may elevate blood sugar in some diabetics. In this case, niacinamide can be used. It has the same benefits but has no effect on insulin production or use.
*B5 – Pantothenic Acid
Pantothenic Acid is known as the stress vitamin because of its role in the manufacture of adrenal hormones. Many hypoglycemics have reduced adrenal function, so Vitamin B5 is a very important addition to the hypoglycemic diet. Pantothenic acid is used in the metabolism of carbohydrates, fats, and glucose and supports the normal functioning of the gastrointestinal system.
Dosage: RDA 5mg
Avoid coffee and alcohol-both reduce the effectiveness of Vitamin B5.
*B6 – Pyroxidine
Pyroxidine is involved in the manufacture of many of the proteins and hormones in your body and is needed for brain function. It is also used in making genetic material. Vitamin B6 is critical to your immune system and in antibody and red cell production. It aids digestion by helping metabolize fats, carbohydrates and proteins and through the production of digestive enzymes and HCL (stomach acid).
It has been used in the treatment of carpal tunnel syndrome with some success but more work is needed to determine the amount of improvement that can be expected without surgery.
Dosage: RDA 2.0mg
Vitamin B6 enhances zinc absorption. Tobacco, coffee, alcohol and birth control pills all reduce the effectiveness of this important nutrient.
*B12 – Cyanocobalamin
Vitamin B12 is needed for proper growth and development of red blood cells. It is also helpful in ensuring proper digestion through the absorption of nutrition from foods and synthesis of protein.
A deficiency of B12 can result in Pernicious Anemia. Pernicious Anemia was fatal until the 1920’s when it was discovered that eating liver could reverse the disease. It was only later that it was discovered that liver was a good source of Vitamin B12.
Dosage: RDA 6mcg
Meat is the only food source of Vitamin B12, so vegetarians must supplement their diet with this Vitamin. Alcohol, tobacco, coffee and laxatives inhibit the absorption and action of this important nutrient, so habitual use of any of these should be avoided.
Biotin, part of the B Complex, is essential for cell growth, muscle tone and healthy skin and hair. Biotin also helps in the production of enzymes necessary for metabolism of sugars, fats and proteins. A deficiency of biotin results in a deficiency of glucose for energy. Supplementing with biotin can enhance your insulin sensitivity and improve the use of glucose in your liver. Vitamin B absorption depends on adequate biotin.
Dosage: RDA 300mcg
Biotin has been tested for toxicity and there are no known toxic side effects even at large doses.
We all know that we need calcium to prevent osteoporosis and to build strong bones and teeth. But you can add glucose intolerance to the list of problems that could indicate a calcium deficiency. With magnesium, calcium helps in regulating blood sugar levels, and in metabolizing fats. Hypoglycemics often burn sugar for energy rather than fat, so calcium can help by improving fat metabolism. It’s good for your digestion, too.
Other benefits of getting enough calcium are improved colon health, stress reduction, and faster healing (calcium activates Vitamin K). Calcium is also needed for absorption of Vitamins A, C and B6.
You can increase your calcium intake by adding milk, molasses, nuts, dandelions, tofu, shellfish, eggs, wheat, collards or legumes to your diet.
Dosage and Safety
RDA 1000 mg/day: Remember to take your multivitamin-you need Vitamin D for proper absorption of calcium. Some of the drugs that block the absorption of calcium from your food are cortisone, aspirin, chemotherapeutic agents, and tetracyclines.
Chromium is the most important supplement for helping to improve hypoglycemia and insulin resistance in general. Numerous studies have shown that insulin just doesn’t work without chromium, and there is evidence that chromium helps both hypoglycemics and diabetics. In addition, it may protect against stroke and heart attack by lowering elevated blood cholesterol and tryglyceride levels. It promotes weight loss because of improved fat burning, and helps convert fat to muscle.
The crucial nature of chromium in animal health has been known since the 1950’s, but human evidence only became available in the 1970’s as doctors treated patients with intravenous nutrition. Some of these long-term patients developed high blood sugar levels even though they weren’t diabetic. When chromium was added to the nutrition mix, these patients quickly improved, and their insulin injections were no longer necessary.
Studies have shown that simple sugars prompt chromium to be discharged in the urine-one source suggests that up to 20% more chromium leaves the body-so removing sugar from your diet is as important as adding chromium and both should be done together. Increasing your chromium may also decrease your sugar cravings, so supplementing with chromium may help you cut down your sugar consumption.
You especially need chromium if you are diabetic, hypoglycemic or you eat a highly refined carbohydrate diet. Seniors, too, should supplement with chromium, since the body’s absorption of nutrients isn’t as effective as it is in young people. When you are down with the flu or cold, extra chromium may be necessary-blood chromium levels drop when you have virus infection.
Chromium occurs naturally in organ meats, broccoli, mushrooms, whole grains, processed meats, peppers, milk, cheese, eggs and Brewer’s Yeast. Most of us don’t get even the 50mcg minimum from our diets, so supplementation would be a benefit, whether hypoglycemic or not. One source even suggests that refinement of grains destroys most of the chromium, so even if you eat plenty of grains, you may not be getting as much chromium as you think.
Dosage and Safety
RDA 200mcg/day: Make sure that you take chromium picolinate or chromium GTF (Glucose Tolerance Factor), not chromium salts. Chromium appears to be non-toxic, even in high doses. Some hypoglycemics have reported that they get maximum benefit by taking their chromium just before they eat.
Magnesium is a crucial element for your heart, brain and kidneys. It is involved in thyroid production, and hormone, antibody and protein synthesis. Magnesium works with calcium for muscle contraction and helps produce energy, especially in muscle cells. Magnesium is also involved in producing stomach acid and digestive enzymes. It is especially important for hypoglycemics because it aids in the digestion of sugar, starches and fats and helps stabilize blood sugar levels. The secretion and action of insulin require magnesium.
Supplementing with magnesium is especially important if you are increasing your intake of refined carbohydrates or if you are diabetic. Liver dysfunction is another reason you might want to supplement with magnesium. If you crave chocolate, it could be an indication that you are low in magnesium.
The dietary sources of magnesium include whole grains, nuts, seeds, cocoa, milk, green vegetables, seafood, brown rice, kidney and lima beans.
Dosage and Safety RDA 400mg/day:
Don’t take extra magnesium if you have kidney disease because it is the kidney that processes the magnesium.
Manganese is used in your body for fat and protein metabolism and the production of energy. It is needed for growth, maintenance of connective tissue, bone and cartilage and helps with fatty acid synthesis. Manganese is needed for the proper maintenance of blood glucose levels, so it is useful in treating diabetes and hypoglycemia. It is also useful in the treatment of epilepsy, anorexia and iron deficiency. The absorption of Vitamins C, B1 and E depend on sufficient amounts of manganese, so make sure your multivitamin supplement includes it.
Dietary sources of manganese include whole grain cereals, leafy vegetables, nuts and tea.
Dosage and Safety
RDA 2-5 mg/day.
Selenium is an essential trace mineral that helps enhance immunity by working in the production of antibodies. It is a free radical scavenger, so it helps to prevent oxidation that has been linked to premature ageing. Selenium is needed for proper operation of the thyroid gland and for protein synthesis in the liver. Selenium also appears to provide some protection from heart disease and can be used to cleanse the body of heavy metal poisoning.
Dietary sources of selenium include seafood, liver, kidney, whole grains, vegetables, garlic, Brazil nuts and walnuts, cottage cheese, oatmeal, chicken and turkey meat, enriched noodles and canned tuna. Brazil nuts have by far the largest concentration of selenium at 840mcg/oz. Most of the other sources contribute less than 100mcg per serving.
Selenium enters grains through the soil and there are parts of the world where the soil’s reserve of selenium has been depleted through decades of overuse. If you live in those parts of North America, China and Russia where there is very little or no selenium in the soil, it is especially important that you ensure that the rest of your diet contains an adequate supply.
Dosage and Safety
RDA 55mcg for adults: (60mcg for pregnant women, 70mcg if breast-feeding). Most people get enough selenium in their diets unless they live in a selenium-depleted area.
Too much selenium can result in a condition called selenosis, which produces symptoms of gastrointestinal upsets, hair loss, white blotchy nails, and mild nerve damage. One study suggests that a tolerable upper intake level for selenium is 400mcg/day.
Vitamin C is crucial for the production, development and strength of collagen needed for all connective tissue in your body. It is also important for the development and maintenance of healthy bones and teeth. Vitamin C strengthens the immune system and aids in healing. This important vitamin also increases the absorption of iron and protects against heavy metal toxicity. Most important for hypoglycemics, Vitamin C supports the function of the adrenal glands and helps rebuild adrenals that are burned out-a condition common in hypoglycemics.
Citrus fruits like oranges and grapefruit are well-known sources of Vitamin C, but today’s grocery supply of citrus fruit may contain a lot less Vitamin C than you think. Most of the citrus fruits we eat now are ripened in the back of a truck, rather than in the orchard, and it is the sun ripening that generates the Vitamin C supply that we need.
Dosage and Safety
RDA 60mg/day: This is the lower limit to prevent scurvy and many doctors are now recommending much larger doses. Vitamin C amounts up to 10 grams have been studied with no toxic effects discovered. It works best with magnesium and calcium and is inhibited by aspirin, antibiotics, tobacco, fever, cortisone and stress.
Vitamin E helps with circulation and energy and improves healing. It acts as an antioxidant for prevention of joint damage by free radicals. Vitamin E also neutralizes toxins and helps protect your eyes from too much sunlight.
Vitamin E is available in fruits, vegetables, grains and oils, but cooking and storage often destroy it so it is quite common to have a deficiency unless you take a supplement containing Vitamin E.
Dosage and Safety: RDA 10mg/day
Zinc is needed for proper release of insulin and many hypoglycemics may be deficient. Some of zinc’s functions include cholesterol, protein and energy metabolism, growth, healing and immune function. Zinc is essential for protein synthesis and is needed for the transport of Vitamin A. It is especially needed in pregnant women and childhood through to the end of adolescence. Elderly people often need more zinc because of decreased absorption and intake. Zinc supplementation may also be beneficial for patients with chronic diseases like diabetes.
Dietary sources include meat, eggs, seafood (oysters), milk, whole grains, spinach, soybeans and sunflower seeds. Keep in mind that zinc is destroyed when food is processed, so eat these foods in their natural form as often as possible.
Dosage and Safety
RDA 15 mg/day: Zinc absorption is reduced in the presence of alcohol, diuretics, cortisone, Tagamet and antacids. Stress causes zinc levels to drop rapidly.