Vitamins: The Ins & Outs

Let’s be honest, we have all dabbled with vitamins here and there. Whether it is Vitamin C for the common cold, Vitamin B for fatigue or Vitamin E for dry skin, there are plenty of reasons out there why we consume them. Everyone has an opinion on the matter

Vitamins are organic compounds that are naturally present in minute amounts in food and are not made in sufficient amounts in the human body.  They activate chemical reactions in the body that have much broader implications including its role in gene expression, metabolism, growth, development and reproduction.

Nearly all vitamins are considered essential. Vitamins A, D, E, and K are fat-soluble vitamins and build up in your system, therefore, they don’t require daily consumption. On the other hand, Water-soluble vitamins such as B-complex group and Vitamin C leave the body everyday in your urine; which means that these vitamins should be taken regularly since they can’t be stored. Many people reach for Vitamin C when they feel a cold coming on and although it is effective at mitigating symptoms of the common cold, it is excreted, and therefore it is important to continue taking Vitamin C during recovery.

People get into the habit of eating the same meals day after day; such a monotonous diet with limited variety of food groups may put them at risk of nutrient deficiencies. With the addition of a poor diet, medication, alcohol, smoking and caffeine consumption, you can become depleted in nutrients and therefore supplementing with vitamins is necessary. Taking vitamins is also important when the body is in a state where it has increased nutritional requirements, such as strenuous exercise, stress, sleep deprivation, pregnancy or suffering from a heath condition.

As we grow older, our dietary requirements change, so if you’re in your 40s, 50s, or 60s, with menopause and creaky bones, there are certain vitamins you should get into the habit of taking.

Vitamin D is calcium's indispensable partner against osteoporosis. It's essential for proper absorption of calcium in your diet. However, with aging, our ability to synthesize vitamin D in sunlight through our skin diminishes; therefore, our dependence on dietary sources of Vitamin D goes up.

Seniors have difficulties absorbing Vitamin B12 due to low stomach acid production.  Chronic stress and the use of medications such as proton pump inhibitors and antacids only serve to exacerbate this problem. Vitamin B12 is integral for the central nervous system, it affects memory retention and cognition. It is recommended therefore that adults over the age of 50 get most of their Vitamin B12 from supplements or fortified foods.

Stress is a natural part of life. In response to these daily strains, our bodies automatically become depleted in vitamins essential for our wellbeing. A quality multivitamin would be the best solution. If a person is on a restricted diet for any reason then they need to pay even more attention to their vitamin intake. Replenishing the body’s store of vitamins can result an immediate recovery for a given health condition associated with that vitamin deficiency, nevertheless, it is best to have a regular intake of vitamins in order to observe results.

There are many misconceptions about vitamins.  Vitamins are medicine and therefore should be treated with the same respect. The excess consumption of any medicine is harmful for the human body. Just because a product is “natural” does not mean it doesn’t have side effects, interactions, and potential toxicity. Is the supplement a quality brand? Vitamins are a multibillion-dollar industry and this means that many companies cut production costs by adding fillers and binders to their formulas in order to sell them at a reduced rate. Therefore, please consult a Naturopathic Physician if you are considering supplementing vitamins into your diet. Professional brands distribute solely to practitioners for that reason in order to maintain quality assurance. Another common misconception is that quality vitamin supplements are expensive but if you crunch the numbers you will see otherwise. For example, a supplement on sale for 60$, carrying 180 capsules of 1000mg of Vitamin C, comes to 33 cents per 1 gram of Vitamin C. Try finding a coffee for the price of that! The last message to take home is that if you are eating junk food all day, you are dreaming if you think that that taking a multivitamin is somehow going to compensate for that fact and magically protect your health. Finally, vitamins are not used in place of searching the root cause of your problems, so it is important to be mindful of the reason that you are taking a specific vitamin supplement in the first place.