Vitamins are essential for a healthy lifestyle, and while some people get all they need through their diet, there are many people who take daily multivitamins to stay as healthy as possible. There are plenty of reasons to consider taking vitamins, and vitamin manufacturers are happy to supply them. These reasons can range from helping with certain health problems to supplementing a vegan or vegetarian diet. Women who are pregnant or breastfeeding might also consider prenatal vitamins to cover any potentially lacking nutrients. Like anything, however, vitamins can be unsafe when taken to excess or used incorrectly. If you’re considering taking vitamins, it’s always a good idea to make sure you actually need them and create an effective strategy when taking them.
Consult your doctor
Before you start taking any kind of vitamin or supplement, it’s always a good idea to speak to your doctor about it. The most likely reasons a doctor would recommend you take vitamins is to cover any nutritional or health deficiencies. If you’re in good health, the likelihood of a recommendation goes down sharply.
Whether vitamins actually do the same thing in pill form versus their more natural counterparts is a matter of some controversy. It’s also possible to get toxic doses of vitamins through pills. For example, too much vitamin A can lead to increased risk of bone problems and hardening of the blood vessels. Too much vitamin E has been associated with a higher risk of heart failure. Milder side effects from taking too many vitamins can be things like cramping and nausea.
If your doctor agrees that taking vitamins could be beneficial in your specific case, there are some things you’ll need to understand.
How does the body absorb vitamins?
Vitamins are absorbed in different ways depending on their type. Generally speaking, there are two primary ones. Water soluble vitamins are absorbed easily and are best taken on an empty stomach. Because of this, many choose to take them first thing in the morning. These are generally the safest vitamins since the body doesn’t store them. Any excess is flushed out through urine. One of the biggest risks of this type of vitamin is the potential to interfere with certain tests.
On the other hand, fat soluble vitamins, as the name suggests, are absorbed through body fat. It’s generally recommended to take these vitamins with an evening meal with saturated fats to help the body absorb them. When taken in excess, these vitamins are stored in the liver, so they may not be recommendable for those who drink large volumes of alcohol or who have liver problems.
Creating your strategy
Everyone’s diet is different, and because of this, everyone will have different needs when constructing their vitamin strategy. It’s generally recommended to get as many of your daily vitamins as possible from food, but when this isn’t possible, one should look to the dietary guidelines to decide how to proceed. There are some general guidelines such as people over 50 should take a B-12 vitamin supplement. Those who don’t get much sunlight are recommended to take a vitamin D supplement. Pregnant women generally need to consume more iron than average, so a supplement may be useful. Otherwise, you’ll want to follow more specific guidelines from a doctor.
There are definitely some things to avoid while taking vitamins. You should always avoid consuming more than the recommended amount of a vitamin, so you’ll need to consider how a vitamin might interact with your diet for the day. Also, always ask your doctor about possible interactions with any prescription drugs you may be taking, as these can sometimes be severe. Pregnant women should never increase their intake of prenatal vitamins. If the prenatal multivitamin isn’t fully covering a specific need, then pair the multivitamin with another specific supplement. Taking more than one multivitamin can easily lead to an excess of vitamin A or other dangerous outcomes.
Finally, talk to your doctor about reliable sources for vitamins, as some go largely unregulated as far as quality.