Are Vitamin Supplements Necessary?
Your Body Needs Vitamins
For our body to combat disease, it needs several nutrients to function efficiently: water, various minerals, fats, carbohydrates, and protein. It also needs vitamins so that it can perform the necessary chemical processes for sustaining life.
Water-Soluble and Fat-Soluble Vitamins
Vitamins come in two forms: water-soluble and fat-soluble. Water-soluble vitamins are those vitamins that you need to take everyday because they are not stored in the body permanently. Examples of these vitamins are C and all of the B vitamins.
Fat soluble vitamins on the other hand are stored in our fatty tissues and deposits. Some are also stored in the liver. Examples are Vitamins A, D, E and K.
What Happens When a Person is Vitamin-Deficient?
When a person lacks the necessary vitamins for ensuring essential body functions, health problems could result. Not everyone who is vitamin-deficient will experience the same health problems. These problems can range from minor skin irritations to cardiovascular disorders.
There are certain people who are at higher risk of being vitamin-deficient: pregnant women, nursing mothers, people who consume more than two to four alcoholic drinks a day, drug users, heavy smokers, vegetarians, people on a diet, chronically ill patients, people with eating disorders and even children. People with food allergies – especially those foods that are important for the body – are also vitamin-deficient.
Where Can We Get Vitamins?
The best answer: Food! Fresh fruits and vegetables are excellent sources of vitamins. Do not cook vegetables at high temperatures because you remove some of the nutrients. The best ways to cook them are to steam them lightly, stir-fry or grill them.
The second best answer: Vitamin Supplements.
Laboratories that manufacture vitamin supplements make every effort to duplicate the chemical processes that vitamins go through. Even if vitamin supplements have become popular ways to make up for our vitamin deficiencies, the most excellent approach of course is to obtain them from natural foods. The only exception, however, is folate because the body absorbs it better in synthetic form.
What Vitamin Supplements are Recommended and How Much Should be Taken?
If you’re not eating properly either because you’re sick or don’t have the time to prepare a nutritious meal, the recommendation is that you seriously consider taking vitamin supplements.
But which ones? The choices are numerous so it is difficult to decide when there is an abundance of choices. For normal people, one multi-vitamin is considered sufficient. For people with special health needs, however, additional vitamin supplements may help. Here are some of the more common supplements that people take:
Calcium and Magnesium
|Calcium actually has the ability to renew itself in the body and hence is the most abundant mineral. Calcium supplements will help in the healthy formation of bones, making them stronger. When taking calcium supplements, add vitamin D and magnesium as they help the body absorb calcium.|
|One obvious sign of an iron deficiency is anemia. Good iron supplements are ferrous iron and iron-enriched water. Exercise caution however as excess amounts of iron can trigger heart disease.|
|B complex vitamins are essential supplements for increasing the body’s energy levels when it goes through periods of stress. It is usually a good idea to take vitamin B after treatment with antibiotics.|
|Zinc is excellent for the rapid healing of wounds, cuts and bruises. Zinc also serves as a boost to our immune system and keeps our skin healthy. Higher doses than the recommended levels should be avoided as excess amounts of zinc can be toxic.|
|Vitamins A, C and E are usually combined along with selenium to produce anti-oxidant vitamins. Anti-oxidant vitamin supplements help retard the aging process, help strengthen our immune system and facilitate healing of injuries and wounds.|
|Folic acid has been known to help prevent birth defects, reason why pregnant women and mothers-to-be take folic acid supplements.|
As for how much to take, the rule of thumb is not to take more than is necessary. An excessive intake of vitamins can lead to toxicity. Follow the instructions on the bottle, and don’t be tempted to mega-dose, the way some people do. Mega-dosing particularly on the fat-soluble vitamins is strongly discouraged to avoid the body from reaching toxic levels.
Remember that if you’re already taking a multi-vitamin, do not take other vitamin supplements that could contribute to unacceptable dosage limits.
Word of Caution About Vitamin Supplements
Misconception abounds that vitamins can heal diseases. They don’t. For example, some people believe that taking large amounts of Vitamin C can prevent colds. Once a person has a cold, taking mega doses of Vitamin C does not make the cold go away. Vitamin C is not a drug or a medicine. Another example is that people are under the impression that Vitamin E prevents heart disease. No study or research has proven this to be true.
Still others believe that vitamins can cure fatigue or stress. Not so. Sure, there are some supplements in the market that CAN HELP a person with chronic fatigue or stress, but doctors confirm that finding out the CAUSE(S) of fatigue or stress and then treating those causes is the more logical approach.