Multivitamins and Nutritional Supplements
A Vitamin is a substance that is required in small quantities to maintain good health. There are 13 known vitamins. These are divided into
- Water soluble vitamins which our body can’t store. So they have to be provided on a regular basis.
- Fat soluble vitamins (A, D,E ,K). These get stored in the body and don’t need to be taken regularly, as excess amounts can have harmful effects.
What are the sources of vitamins and why do we need them?
We get most of our vitamins from the diet we consume, especially fruits and vegetables, milk products, meat and eggs.
- Itis produced in the body in the presence of sunlight. It is also available in fatty fish, meat, eggs, mushrooms.
- Common sources are meat, cod liver oil, spinach, pumpkin, milk, cheese, eggs.
- Lack of vitamin A can cause dry skin, dryness of eyes and night blindness
- It consists of many subtypes
- Common sources are meat, grains, brown rice, milk, green leafy vegetables, eggs and potatoes.
- Lack of vitamin B can cause nerve disorders, mental disturbances, diarrhea, anaemia and birth defects
- Common sources are citrus fruits like lemon and raw vegetables. Heat tends to destroy vitamin C.
- Lack of vitamin C can cause scurvy which causes bleeding gums, delayed wound healing, anaemia, tiredness.
- It is found in green, leafy vegetables, meat, milk.
- Lack of vitamin E can cause a type of anaemia in newborn babies
- It is found in green vegetables, avocado, parsley.
- Lack of vitamin K increases chances of bleeding.
Are vitamin supplements needed for everybody?
Generally, for a healthy adult, a well-balanced diet provides all the vitamins that are needed. There are some situations where additional supplements are required, which might include vitamins as well as certain other necessary substances, like iron or calcium.
- Pregnant women require additional amounts of a vitamin, called folic acid, which is needed for the healthy growth of the fetus.
- Breast feeding women required added calcium and iron to make up for the loss in breast milk
- Added iron is needed for small children who primarily have milk.
- People over 50 need added calcium and vitamin B12, as the gut starts absorbing these in lesser quantities.
- People who take excessive amounts of alcohol need supplements with B vitamins.People who follow strict diets and vegetarians, require added B vitamins, especiallyB12.
What are the precautions I need to take if I’m taking supplements?
- Commercially available nutritional supplements and multivitamin preparations contain different types of vitamins. Generally, these are safe to take.
- But, some people might have an allergy to one of the ingredients, so it’s important to check the list of ingredients carefully before use.
- Also, there are some vitamins, called fat soluble vitamins (vitamins A, D, E and K), and iron, which can be harmful if taken above the recommended daily allowance (RDA). This is because these get stored in the body unlike the other vitamins, called water soluble vitamins, which get removed from the body if taken in excess. So, it’s best to check with your doctor before taking a supplement which has a fat soluble vitamin, or iron, listed as one of the ingredients.
- Some people take vitamin K which might interfere with the action of blood thinning medicines. So, do keep your doctor informed if you are taking this vitamin.
- If you do display signs of some vitamin or nutritional deficiency, it might be possible to check the blood levels to ensure that the need for supplementation is actually there. This is applicable especially for vitamin D, B12 and iron.
- Like any other drug, you might get some irritation on taking supplements. This can include nausea, a burning sensation in the abdomen, bloating sensation and even skin eruptions. If you do get any of these, please report them to your doctor and avoid that preparation in future.
While supplements help in certain situations, most people can stay in good health just by following a healthy diet and exercise plan.