All parents want their children to be as healthy as possible and most parents do whatever they can to support their children. Many parents bring their children into see me not necessarily to treat specific medical conditions but to determine what they can do to support the health of their children. One of the most common questions they ask is, “Should my child take vitamin supplements?”

I typically recommend most infants and toddlers under the age of two get the majority of their vitamins, minerals, amino acids, and other essential nutrients through breast milk and dietary intake. These are the most natural and pure sources of the essential nutrients. The exception to this is vitamin D, which all infants should get 400 IU/day. I typically recommend most children over the age of two take a daily multivitamin to enhance their nutritional intake.

The prostate is a walnut-sized gland that produces semen, the fluid that transports sperm. After a man turns 50, or in those with urinary symptoms, the prostate may begin to need support. And men who have CFS/FMS can be particularly vulnerable to a form of prostate irritation called prostadynia.

The prostate rings the urethra, the tube that transports ejaculate and drains urine from the bladder. As the prostate expands in size, the urethra may be squeezed and narrowed, causing urinary symptoms such as frequent urination (particularly during the night), urgency, difficulty starting the stream, a weaker stream, dribbling at the end, and incomplete emptying.

Thanks to a combination of new advances into natural remedies and a veritable treasure trove of time-tested information, it is more possible than ever to preserve and improve your health through holistic means. The growing popularity of such products can be witnessed both in the proliferation of the specialty stores that carry them and their emergence on the shelves of more traditional retailers. More importantly, this isn’t due to any hidden financial agenda, as these products lack the backing of the big pharmaceutical corporations that have made so many pills and powders household names. Instead, a handful of the natural remedies are gaining steam for one simple reason: they work. When taken properly, natural supplements can offer all the benefits of their synthetic counterparts without the considerable drawbacks of side effects, making them an essential part of one’s day-to-day wellness regiment.

Controversy is no stranger to vitamins and herbs, albeit there are periods of more and of less attention. Popular news sources recently have been making much of a couple of issues: To start, there has been a regular drumbeat regarding the uselessness of vitamins, either alone or in combination, for either preserving or improving health. Multi-vitamin/mineral supplements are common targets, but so are vitamins such as vitamin D and a number of popular herbs. Next, we are warned routinely of possible interactions between various supplements, especially herbal extracts, and prescription drugs. In particular, blood-thinning medications and certain immuno-suppressants used to treat HIV have been emphasized as being incompatible with a number of popular plant products, including St. John's wort and Chinese ginseng. Both sets of issues are real, to be sure, and need to be considered for safety's sake. Nevertheless, the ensuing controversy over supplements is perhaps just as important for what it reveals about American dietary and other habits as for what it reveals about the safety of vitamins and herbs.

Two years ago, in this space the magazine took a look at bone health and the role of some non-calcium factors in benefits. (See Not by Calcium Alone.) As was observed at that time, to improve bone health and reduce fracture risk, Americans have been taught to focus on calcium supplements and bone mineral density (BMD).

Above: Osteoporosis medical illustration healthy bone and unhealthy bone—osteoporosis. Osteoporosis may lead to bone fracture.

However, the weak relationship between BMD and fracture risk has led experts to look elsewhere for support for bone health. These experts draw a distinction between bone quality (which concerns reduced risks of fracture) and bone quantity (which is concerned exclusively with bone mineral density).

milk thistle not just for the liverMilk thistle, as is true of similarly classic liver tonics from the Chinese tradition, such as bupleurum, has occupied a central spot in herbalism for good reasons, many of which remain true today.

This herbal tonic generally ranks high in recognition and sales with the American public in comparison with other botanical products. Nevertheless, its sales here are small on a per capita basis compared with, say, Germany, perhaps as little as 25 percent of what might be expected. Both old research and new suggest that milk thistle deserves even wider appreciation.

Garlic, a traditional medicine for centuries, is now validated by modern science to have a wide range of medicinal properties. Fresh garlic however is not for everyone, as its lingering odor on breath and skin and its potential gastric side effects make people reject fresh garlic, thus depriving themselves of its benefits. An important alternative, chosen by many is odorless Kyolic Aged Garlic Extract (AGE) that is higher in antioxidants than fresh garlic and often more effective in protecting health.

Urinary tract infections (UTIs) result from elevated levels of bacteria colonizing the urogenital tract (including the bladder and urethra; the tube that carries urine from the bladder to the outside of the body), and are one of the most commonly acquired bacterial infections in both non-hospitalized and hospitalized individuals. UTIs lead to about 8 million visits to doctor’s offices and emergency rooms each year in the U.S., and are a substantial burden to healthcare costs.1 Although UTIs are generally not serious if treated promptly, they can cause significant discomfort and difficulty with urination; complications of an untreated UTI include kidney infection with the possibility of permanent damage.

Toxins come in a variety of forms. Our environment is full of them, and not all of these are man-made. Many toxins are found in everyday foods. Worse yet, some of the most dangerous toxins—toxins linked to breast and prostate cancers, for instance—are made in our own bodies. Of course, we are not without inborn defenses against toxic assaults. Indeed, the liver, in particular, is an organ, which is equipped to deactivate and remove poisons from our systems.

The stakes are high in the fight against toxins. Cancers and cardiovascular disease are two common results of toxic assaults upon the cells. The best known of the toxic compounds are free radicals, molecules generally produced by the action of oxygen and which can attack cell membranes and cellular DNA (deoxyribonucleic acid, the “blue print” for cell functions and cell division). Antioxidants and free radical scavengers, such as the vitamins C and E, and plant compounds such the anthocyanidins and ellagic acid found in fruits and vegetables, prevent free radicals from causing damage to the tissues.

“For every dollar we spend on prescription drugs, we spend a dollar to fix a complication. Understanding how nutritional supplements affect these drugs could make them safer andmore effective.”

—Mehmet Oz, M.D.

A little known but potentially life-saving fact is that common medications deplete vital nutrients essential to your health. Here’s a practical guide to avoid drug-induced nutrient depletion, and even, replace your medications with natural supplements.

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