Frequently Asked Health Questions

The answers to frequently asked health questions that many have but are afraid to ask.

Frequently Asked Health Questions

There are questions about all areas of health—from fitness to diet to vitamin supplements—that many people have but don't know who to ask. Many worry they should already know the answers to their questions, or simply aren't sure who does have the answers. I'm here to go over a few frequently asked health questions to educate you on staying healthy as part of your day to day life.

Vitamin Supplements

Vitamin supplements come in a variety of forms. Is it better to take then as a tablet or a liquid?

Consumers are often confused about what type of supplement to choose. Vitamins exist in so many different forms because people have so many different needs. Experiment until you find what is best for you. Tablets are the most common form. They are easy to store and carry, and usually last longer than other kinds of supplements because they are protected by fillers and binders. Fat-soluble vitamins such as A, D, and E, frequently come in capsule form so the consumer can avoid the unpleasant taste of the fish and vegetable oils used to make them. Generally more expensive than tablets, they are also convenient to carry and store, although they are less resistant to high temperatures.

Time-release capsules contain tiny amounts of vitamins in small pellets that dissolve over time at differing rates, providing a continuous supply for six to 12 hours. Although they are generally superior in their ability to minimize vitamin loss and maximize tissue saturation, some individuals are unable to fully absorb the vitamins into their system.

Powders and crystals are useful for those who have trouble swallowing pills or capsules, or who prefer to mix their vitamins with juice or food. Powered vitamins are free of additives and have a concentrated potency. For example, just a quarter teaspoon of vitamin C powder can provide 1,000 pure milligrams. Liquids and drops are even easier to take and may be useful for infants and children. They are also easy to mix with juices or food.

Some people may experience allergic reactions to certain components of tablet or capsule vitamins. Switching to the purer powder or liquid form usually eliminates this problem.

Fats As Part of a Diet

I am trying to improve my diet and have read conflicting reports about fats. Isn't it best to cut fats from your diet altogether?

No, fat is not an evil substance—to the contrary, it is one of the body's primary nutrients. We need small amounts of fats because they allow us to use the fat-soluble vitamins A, D, E, and K, which are essential for maintaining our immune system. (These vitamins only work in the presence of fatty molecules or tissue.)

Fat also helps prevent viral infections, insulates our blood vessels, heart, and other organs, and slows down the aging process. It helps keep skin healthy, too. Most important, fats act as a reserve supply of energy, stored throughout the body in adipose tissue.

Body fat prevents excessive heat loss and is essential for the production of hormones. In fact, much of your body's chemistry revolves around the proper utilization of fats. If you ingest too much of it, however, it will penetrate organs and muscle tissue, increasing the risk of diseases such as diabetes and atherosclerosis.

This doesn't mean you should gorge yourself on french fries. When fat is heated, it loses its healthful properties. Derive fats from seeds, grains, legumes, and nuts.

Common Cold Treatments

I Know there's no cure for the common cold, but can you recommend a treatment regime to best deal with one?

No medicine has yet been discovered or created that can destroy the 150 or so viruses that invade the body and cause the garden-variety cold. Purveyors of cold remedies choose to obscure this fact when they claim in their ads to offer "prompt relief from suffering." Nevertheless, we buy these "shotgun" formulas—as they are called in the trade—which are a combination of ingredients: aspirin, a decongestant, an antihistamine, and either ascorbic acid (vitamin C) or an antacid.

Decongestants reduce swelling of the membranes in the nose and upper respiratory tract and temporarily alleviate the stuffed-up feeling of a cold. However, the membranes soon swell up again, sometimes even more than before. This condition is called "rebound congestion," and many people simply reach for another dose, compounding the problem.

Nasal sprays should be avoided since they contain decongestants and are a breeding ground for bacteria. The spray tip is contaminated every time the user inserts it, and within a few days bacteria will have multiplied inside the container. While nasal sprays may help you breathe more comfortably for the moment, they increase your chances for re-infection.

Antihistamines are of equally dubious value. They dry out the mucous membranes, encouraging a cough, and will make you drowsy.

Coughing is a natural response to an irritation in the respiratory tract and often accompanies a cold. More than 800 nonprescription cough suppressants are available. While they may make you feel more comfortable temporarily, they defeat the body's own mechanism for curing itself—that is, its ability to bring up thick mucous secretions clogging the lungs and throat.

The only health-promoting ingredient in any of these preparations is vitamin C, although it is included in such tiny amounts as to be virtually useless. A healthy body will forestal most virus attacks, but if you nevertheless succumb, the best treatment for a cold is plenty of rest, plenty of Water, and plenty of patience. There are some homeopathic remedies that can provide symptom relief and speed your recovery without these nasty side effects. I recommend trying these before visiting your local drugstore for relief.

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Alicia Springer

Mother of two. Personal trainer. Fitness is about determination, not age.

See all posts by Alicia Springer