Paavo Airola - Nutrition Forum - Let's Live - April 1976 Index

How to Take Vitamins

Q. I take many kinds of vitamins daily. I take vitamin E and A before meals, and the remaining vitamins and supplements after the meals, three times a day. When I went to my doctor recently for treatment of my chronic skin problem he injected a combination of several vitamins intravenously. Now, I have heard from my friend that for best assimilation, vitamin C should be dissolved in the mouth, specifically under the tongue. This is supposed to be especially good for colds and sinus problems. What is this, the new fad? How should I take my vitamins? Can you please help me? I have been relying on your advice in all other areas, and hope that you can give me an authoritative answer to this question, which is rather perplexing to me. Ms. J.M.. Santa Rosa, CA.

A. Actually, there are many pathways of absorption in and on the human body. For example, in old folk medicine, garlic was used extensively for colds, digestive problems, asthma, sinusitis, etc. But before the modern method of sealing garlic oil in gelatin capsules was developed, it wasn't an easy task to make children take garlic. So a rather unique, but very effective method of administering garlic to children was developed: a few garlic cloves were placed in children's shoes! As they walked, the cloves were crushed, and garlic was absorbed into the system through the soles of the feet. If you doubt that I am telling you the truth, just rub a cut garlic clove anywhere on your feet and within 10 minutes, your breath will indicate that garlic has reached your bloodstream. DMSO, a controversial cure-all drug, is usually rubbed on the skin anywhere on the body and will reach any part or organ deep inside, within a few minutes. Vitamin E oil, the recent fad in natural cosmetics, is also absorbed through the skin quite rapidly.

Taking medication by dissolving it under the tongue is not a new fad this method has been used by medical doctors for a long time. For example, heart patients are advised to dissolve their nitroglycerine tablets beneath the tongue for quick assimilation. There is an extremely rich network of blood vessels located right below the tongue and on the lower part of the tongue. It has been observed that nitroglycerine, when placed beneath the tongue, reaches the blood stream in 10 seconds or less. This is important, since a patient with an approaching heart attack may not have more than 10 seconds! Doctors use this instant absorption pathway also for other drugs, and even vitamins. Vitamins C and E are known to be absorbed very quickly in this manner - within 10 seconds or so they can be found in the blood stream. It takes much longer than that to get vitamins into the system through the usual way. When swallowed, vitamins must first be digested in the normal manner, especially if they are taken with meals. The oil containing vitamins, particularly A and E, must go through an elaborate process of digestion and assimilation before they reach the blood stream and the tissues. This is why doctors use intravenous injections, especially in acute conditions of ill health, to by pass the time consuming route of absorption through the digestive tract. While intravenously injected vitamins reach the blood stream instantly, subcutaneous or intramuscular injections of vitamins could be termed a time release method - they are absorbed effectively but gradually during an extended period of time.

To make a long story longer, here is some practical advice on how to take your vitamins:

  1. If you take vitamins as a part of a general nutritional and supplementary program - that is, if your reason for taking vitamins is not to treat any specific ailment, but to improve your nutrition and/or protect yourself from the harmful effects of a toxic environment you should take them as a part of your diet, together with meals and other supplements, and divided between three meals. All vitamins and supplements are synergistic in their action; they are assimilated best and have more effective biological action on your body if consumed together and at mealtime. Taken in this manner, they become a part of the Optimum Diet, maximizing your nutrition and improving it in terms of health-building and disease-preventive potential. Vitamins or minerals, when taken orally with meals, are usually perfectly safe. The body assimilates and uses what is needed and the excess is left undigested and is excreted. The danger of over-dosage is minimal. If your digestion and assimilation are good, this is still the best way to take vitamins.

  2. If you, however, suffer from some serious acute illness, and are taking some specific vitamins as medicines - that is, to treat a specific condition - then you may need a faster than usual way to get them into your blood stream. You and your doctor may then choose some of the other approaches: intravenous or subcutaneous injections, or sublingually - by placing a tablet or capsule under your tongue. These pathways of absorption of vitamins are recommended only for short periods of time as part of a therapeutic program. When the acute condition is corrected, the normal oral vitamin supplementation should be resumed. Although vitamin C is very quickly absorbed when dissolved in the mouth, and also tends to act directly on affected mucous linings in the mouth, nose and throat, I would not advise you to take all your vitamin C in this manner on a regular basis. There seems to be some evidence that keeping vitamin C tablets in the mouth for prolonged periods may have a damaging effect on the enamel of your teeth. Vitamin E, on the other hand, can be taken this way continuously if you wish. Break the capsule with your teeth, and not only keep the content under your tongue, but spread it all over your mouth it has a very beneficial effect on your gums preventing and even helping to correct pyorrhea and other gum problems.

Biochemical Individuality

Q. Please tell me why I need so much vitamin A and calcium? If I don't take 60,000 units of A twice a day, I have what doctors call bronchitis, badly out of breath when I walk fast, sneezing and coughing. I have had this for over a year. I also have to take a handful of calcium every day. Otherwise I get cramps in my legs and can hardly walk. Especially if I eat sweets, even sweet fruits and juices. I am in my 70's and feel wonderful otherwise, as I follow a good diet with plenty of vegetables, fruits and nuts. I have been following a good diet since I had T.B. of the spine. The doctors said I must be operated on if I wanted to live, but I fasted on juices and herbs, and my disease was cured in a few months, and the spine grew back as good as new, although doctors said I wouldn't be able to walk, if I survived. So I know by experience that the juice fasting, as you recommend, is a miraculous healer.

But, please, try to explain why I need so much A and calcium, and will that much A hurt me later? Mrs. J.S., New Braunfels, TX.

A. This seems to be an excellent example of what Dr. Roger Williams calls "biochemical individuality" our needs for specific nutrients may vary considerably among different individuals. Some people need as much as 5 or even 10 times more than others of some specific vitamins and minerals. There is no harm in taking vitamin A and calcium in the amounts you mentioned. I would, however, suggest that you supplement your diet with a full spectrum of vitamins and minerals. Not only A and calcium, but also E, D, B-complex, and such mineral supplements as raw bone meal, magnesium, and zinc. I suspect that if you do that, you will need less of the only two supplements you now take, since vitamins and minerals are more effective if taken all together they are synergistic in their action and help each other.

Niacin Flush

Q. Due to poor circulation (rheumatoid arthritis), I decided to try niacin. A 250 mg. tablet does not produce a flushing, as I read it would. With this tablet, I take also a B-complex tablet. Am I getting any benefit from the extra niacin tablet? D.V.V., Newnan, Ga.

A. Yes, you probably benefit from the extra niacin (B3) even if you do not experience the flush. The flushing is just a harmless and rather beneficial side-effect of niacin actually a histamine brought to the surface of the skin which also dilates the small blood vessels. Niacinamide, another form of vitamin B3, does not cause flushing. In addition to helping improve circulation, niacin is needed for many vital functions within the body. It is especially involved in proper metabolism of proteins and carbohydrates. It is also required for the healthy and proper functioning of the nervous system.

Normally, 250 mg. of niacin will produce a flush in most people. Perhaps you are taking it after a meal. If taken on an empty stomach with half a glass of water, and especially if the tablets are chewed, niacin will produce a flush even in as low a dosage as 100 mg. However, the body will develop a tolerance to it, and eventually it will take a larger and larger dose to produce the flushing effect.

Acid-Alkaline Balance

Q. I've read in several good sources that the best diet is about 80% alkaline 20% acid forming. Yet, some other nutritionists say that the body is naturally slightly acid, and thus, an acid-forming diet should be maintained. In your opinion, which is right? Ms. S.S., Brookfield, Wisc.

A. Incredibly, both sides are right. They are simply talking of different things. In my experience during my lectures and questions and answer periods, and while doing nutritional counseling I find that this acid alkaline question is very confusing to most people. But don't feel bad - even most professionals are uncertain as to what "acid-alkaline" really means. Are citrus fruits acid or alkaline? What about apple cider vinegar, tomatoes, or cranberries are they acid or alkaline? The correct answer is: citrus, cranberries, tomatoes, and apple cider vinegar are all alkaline, but at the same time they create a temporarily acid condition in the stomach, intestines, and even bladder. Confusing, isn't it? Let me explain.

When a biochemist or nutritionist speaks of the acid-alkaline balance, he speaks about the balance in body chemistry - the proper relationship between minerals in the body. All foods are "burned" in the body in the process of digestion, leaving an ash as the result of the "burning". This food ash is classified as neutral, acid, or alkaline, depending largely on the mineral composition of the food. Some foods leave an acid residue or ash, some alkaline. All meats and fish, especially organ meats and oysters, eggs, cheese, most grains (with the exception of millet and buckwheat) and most nuts (except almonds and Brazil nuts), leave an acid ash. All vegetables and fruits, the above excepted nuts and grains, and lima and soya beans leave an alkaline ash. Figs are the most alkaline food of all. Milk, butter, and vegetable oils are neutral. vegetable oils are neutral.

If you eat too many acid-forming foods, acidosis, the excess of acid ash, may result. Acidosis, or over-acidity in the tissues, is one of the basic causes of many diseases, especially the arthritic and rheumatic diseases.

It is, therefore, vitally important that there is a proper ratio between acid-forming and alkali-forming foods in the diet. The ideal ratio is approximately 4 to 1 - or as you said, 80% alkaline to 20% acid. When such a ratio is maintained, the body has maximum resistance against disease. In the healing of disease, when the patient usually has acidosis, the higher the ratio of alkaline elements in the diet, the faster the recovery. Alkalis neutralize the acids. This is one reason why juice therapy is so effective - juices are the most alkaline foods of all.

A healthy body normally keeps large alkali reserves, which are used to meet the emergency demands if too many acid-producing foods are consumed. But when alkali reserves are depleted and the alkali-acid ratio drops to 3 to 2, health can be seriously menaced. My Optimum Diet of three basic food groups: 1) grains, nuts and seeds, 2) vegetables, and 3) fruits, assures a balanced body chemistry and a proper alkaline-acid ratio - the first food group providing acid-forming foods, and the second and third groups providing the alkali-forming foods.

Although some foods may taste acid (tomatoes, citrus, pineapple), and temporarily create an acid condition in the digestive tract, the organic acids in them are quickly changed into alkaline ash or residue and they add to the alkali reserves. The acids in cranberries, however, continue unchanged into the colon or bladder and thus, create an acid environment in these organs, which is actually desirable. That's what the nutritionists you mention mean when they say that the body must be slightly acid - the body tissues must be slightly alkaline, but the stomach, bowels, and elimination organs must have a slightly acid environment.

I know, even after this lengthy explanation, it may be difficult for some to understand the acid-alkaline issue. If you don't have a clear picture, just follow my Optimum Diet and don't worry - it has a built-in provision for an automatic acid-alkaline balance. Remember to eat plenty of alkalizing fruits and vegetables which will help to maintain a constant alkaline reserve in the body.

Folic Acid and Leukemia

Q. When I became pregnant three years ago, I wanted to take my own vitamin supplements. I took a balanced multi-vitamin and mineral tablet each day, as well as vitamins C and E. I also took a B-complex supplement in the form of a capsule. These were in the synthetic form. Since I took two B-complex capsules a day, as well as my multi-vitamin, I consumed a total of 300 mcg. of folic acid a day while I was pregnant. I had absolutely no difficulties during my pregnancy, and now have a beautiful and intelligent little boy. My question is this: I have read that there is some association between folic acid and leukemia. Do you think that my taking 300 mcg. a day while I was pregnant could have hurt my child in any way? Mrs. A.E., Miami, Fla.

A. You should not worry at all. There has never been any established connection between an expectant mother's folic acid intake and the baby's increased risk for developing leukemia. Some old reports that folic acid has at times accelerated and aggravated leukemia (in those who suffer from it, not in their offspring) are largely unproven. Furthermore, your dosage of folic acid was actually very small, far below the recommended daily allowance, which is 400 mcg. for men and women, but 800 mcg. for pregnant women. So, you have no cause for concern. Praise the good Lord every day for your beautiful boy, and ask Him for the wisdom to seek reliable knowledge on how to feed your child and raise him so that he will always enjoy excellent health.

Natural Diuretics

Q. Can you tell me what causes Ascites, and how it can be treated by natural methods? Doctors don't seem to know what to do, except to give diuretic pills, which I am afraid to take since I read that they can be dangerous. I will deeply appreciate whatever information you can give regarding this condition. M.S., Bronx, N.Y.

A. Ascites is a water retention condition, an edema, usually caused by weakened liver function, sometimes accompanied by kidney disorder. The best biological approach is a juice fast, which gives rest to both the liver and kidneys, and helps to normalize their functions. If your condition is serious, your juice fast must be supervised by a sympathetic doctor. Otherwise you can fast on your own for 7 to 10 days, following the detailed fasting instructions in my Juice Fasting book. Coffee enemas can be taken 2-3 times a week during fasting to stimulate the liver. Specific juices and herb teas must be taken during fasting: watermelon juice, lemon juice, and pear juice are best. Specific herb teas are: dandelion, shepherds purse, and parsley all natural diuretics. Asparagus, fresh or canned, is also an excellent diuretic.

Yellow Urine

Q. Why is it that when I take B-complex tablets or capsules - no matter what brand! - my urine changes to bright yellow? Is it a filler in the tablets, or am I excreting what I cannot digest? M.W., Charleston, GA.

A. Riboflavin, or vitamin B2, which comprises a large part of B-complex vitamins, has a naturally bright yellow color, which in some people, spills over into the urine. There is no need to be concerned.