Thursday, November 20, 2008

Pregnancy, Infants, and Babies: Vitamin C, Vitamin D, Niacin, and Thiamine

Reliable reports from independent physicians working in several countries claim that vitamin supplements at doses significantly higher than contained in prenatal vitamins can prevent poor birth outcomes. These include birth defects, premature births, colicky babies, and difficult labor. If true, acting on this information would be priceless. The trouble is, it isn’t easy to prove whether or not these statements are true, and, more importantly doses of vitamins near or beyond the UL’s set by the Food and Nutrition Board inevitably cause side effects. Bad birth outcomes are common. Right or wrong, vitamin side effects could become associated with bad birth outcomes. Pregnancy is a time for cautious, low-risk behavior. It is not a good time to experience vitamin side effects.

Earlier this week, I heard a broadcast report on a neonatal care unit in Texas. The unit was being shut because it had accumulated $700 million in uninsured services over the past few years. I couldn’t help reflecting on the state of affairs of the American health care system. Mainstream medicine is growing and growing and growing. Neonatal care systems churn out infants in poor health. Many are destined for entire lives of poor health. Is it any wonder that the health care system spends extravagantly to save the lives of premature babies while spending minimal sums to prevent poor birth outcomes? It’s a reliable business proposition. Save premature babies of the middle class and claim most of the discretionary income from the family in extra medical expenses for the entire life of the child. Saving premature babies from the lower classes is OK too. The child is entitled to at least emergency care at taxpayer expense.

The facts are the facts. Prevention of illness reduces the need for medical services. Mainstream medicine is not going to focus on reducing the need for medical services (prevention). Nor should it. It should remain focused on discovery and innovation. Families, schools, and corporations have the obvious incentives to focus on prevention. Mainstream medicine is large enough now, that I suspect most extended families of ordinary size have experienced firsthand the consequences of coping with a serious chronic illness.

So, how can families, schools, and corporations prevent the most tragic of chronic illnesses – poor birth outcomes? The health of the mother is one of the best predictors of healthy infants and babies. Mothers in poor health are more likely to experience poor birth outcomes than mothers in excellent health.

The Food and Nutrition Board developed the R.D.A.’s by studying young adults in excellent health. This includes the R.D.A.’s contained in prenatal vitamins. To me, this means that if an expecting mother is in excellent health, prenatal vitamins will maintain her excellent health throughout the pregnancy and birth.

The task, then, is to get all expectant mothers into excellent health. The place to start is in childhood. The R.D.A.’s for children are too low. Children need a multivitamins and extra vitamin C, vitamin D, niacin, and thiamine. Read more here. They need to learn to master the use of vitamins for themselves as young adults. They need to study and experience vitamin side effects. Young adulthood is the best time to experiment with high doses of vitamins. The risk of permanent harm is negligible and young adults bounce back quickly from any side effects. I believe it is particularly important to master vitamin C, vitamin D, niacin, and thiamine because they are the four special vitamins associated with the four named vitamin deficiency diseases: scurvy, rickets, pellagra, and beriberi. Read more here and here. I believe that mastery of these vitamins will result in excellent health for the vast majority of young women. When and if a young woman in excellent health decides to get pregnant, the conservative course of action is to reduce vitamin consumption to the tried and true levels in prenatal vitamins. The only exception is vitamin C. If a young woman has mastered vitamin C and settled on a daily dose above 2000 mg/day, she should consider continuing to take extra vitamin C at a dose of 1000 to 2000 mg/day, just below the UL of 2000 mg/day set by the Food and Nutrition Board.

If you are a young adult reading this column and you are looking for a place to start, here is one:

Vitamin C – 4000 mg/day first thing in the morning
Vitamin D – ample sunshine in the spring, summer, and fall including full body exposure at least once/month. 1000 IU/day during the winter months.
Thiamine – 5 to 10 mg/day as TTFD in an enteric-coated tablet. It has to be TTFD and the tablet has to be enteric coated. Alternatively, purchase TTFD cream and apply 5 to 10 mg topically.
Niacin – take 250 mg time release niacin once per week

Each vitamin can cause side effects. I plan to write four posts (one per vitamin) concerning the side effects of each of these four vitamins in the near future.

Despite the miracles of modern medicine, a higher percentage of people than ever are living with chronic illnesses and are dependent upon pharmaceuticals. An incredible 50% of all Americans are taking at least one prescription drug. Over 80% of Americans over 65 years of age are taking at least one prescription drug. Less than 100 years ago, there weren’t any prescription drugs. Don’t get me wrong, prescription drugs are miracles of modern science and provide fantastic benefits. If you have a problem that responds to prescription drugs, take the drugs. Just keep in mind that prescription drugs for chronic illnesses are not cures. Drugs are needed because specific cellular systems are wounded and not able to function at 100%. In a majority of cases, these wounds will heal given time and care.

It’s time to work to prevent chronic illnesses by building bodies in robust health in the first place. It’s time to start closing anti-depressant production lines, bypass surgery wards, dialysis clinics, and neo-natal care units by reducing the prevalence of these conditions. It’s time to take control of our health by taking full advantage of the wealth of knowledge about the nutrients that make us and keep us healthy. The best place to start is by improving the health of the young women about to produce the next generation. If there are young women in your family who are not in excellent good health, they have much to gain and nothing to lose by mastering vitamin C, vitamin D, niacin and thiamine.