In the past years, there has been a boom over vitamin supplements and the good it is believed to bring the body. In fact, almost 1 in 2 Americans take some kind of supplement daily, making the whole industry worth $37 billion.
Because these products are not regulated, there is also a lot of misconceptions and myths about them. However, researchers are trying to understand their efficiency and whether or not they are really necessary.
In some cases, a doctor will diagnose a deficiency and recommend the supplementation of the diet. Here are some things you may not know about these products that will guide you on your intake.
1. There is No Right Way to Take Supplement
Each person, even though they eat the same foods, will have different balanced diet. It depends on certain factors like level of activity, lifestyle and simply how they digest what they eat. Thus, there is no specific amount or type of supplements that are recommended for everyone and instead, it should be tailor-fit to every person.
For example, if you are pregnant, you will need enough iron so that your child will not have any birth defects or if you are vegan, you might need to supplement the nutrients usually consumed in animal protein like B12.
2. Too Much Can Be Bad For You
While some people believe that more is better, too much can actually be toxic to your body. If you consume too much vitamin B6, you may experience some nerve pain and too much vitamin C can make you feel nauseous or lead to diarrhea.
You need to read the UL (tolerable upper intake level) for your supplements, but take note that you might also get some of these vitamins in your food, so incorporate that in your calculations.
3. Water-Soluble Versus Fat-Soluble
Some vitamins are water-soluble and the body absorbs what it needs and pees out the rest. On the other hand, fat-soluble vitamins can be stored in the body for a long time if you have too much of them. Fat-soluble ones like vitamins A and K should not be taken in excess.
4. They Can Affect Your Medication
When you are regularly taking medication, like birth control pills or antidepressants, you will need to speak to your doctor about taking supplements. This is because some vitamins can actually counteract with your medication.
One example is vitamin K, which is not recommended if you are taking blood-thinning medication as it reduces its effectiveness. On the other hand, vitamins C and E can affect chemotherapy treatments and St. John’s Wort can counter your birth control pills.
5. Some Foods Are Already Fortified
Even if you think you are not taking in enough vitamins, you might actually be “supplementing“ through your consumption of fortified foods. Lots of bread, milk, and cereal are already fortified, so you might not need as many supplements as you think you do.
6. Do Your Research
Read the labels carefully to understand how much supplements you should take. There are Recommended Daily Allowances (RDAs), which is normally a percentage given a 2,000 calorie a day diet. You also need to keep in mind how much is the Adequate Intake (AI) or the UL (upper intake level).
7. They Can Affect Your Bowel Movement
Some vitamins, specifically folic acid, vitamin C and B12 are good for you if you are constipated. However, calcium and iron may have the opposite effect.
8. A Balanced Diet Is Best
While synthetic vitamins are great for those with a real deficiency because of diet preferences or allergies, most people are better off aiming for a balanced diet instead.
You will not have to worry about dosage and over supplementing, poor product quality, issues with other medication, and all those other risks and effects of taking supplements.
Although supplements are helpful in some cases, all that your body needs is already growing around you. Just make sure to add more vegetables, fruits, and less-processed foods in your daily intake.
If you have any doubts, talk with your doctor or a dietician to determine if you need to take certain vitamins. In any case, individual vitamins are better so that you know you do not end up taking too much of other vitamins and minerals by taking a multivitamin.