Why Do We Need Vitamins?
Vitamins allow vital biochemical reactions to take place in the body necessary to help us grow, digest easier and to help nerves function more efficiently. If you eat a proper diet you may wonder why you need to take vitamin supplements.
Most of the foods we eat today are nutrient deficient as they are grown in soils that have been depleted of many trace minerals and nutrients that the body requires to maintain good health. Approximately 67 different nutrients and trace minerals are found in healthy soil. Today’s commercial farming, done without crop rotation and other natural processes used to replenish the soils, depletes the vital nutrients. Commercial fertilizers are designed to replace nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium that make plants grow big, but do not return the soil to its healthy state.
Humans must consume vitamins periodically but with differing schedules, to avoid deficiency. The storing of different vitamins in the body vary widely; vitamins A, D, and B12 are stored in significant amounts in the human body, mainly in the liver. An adult human’s diet may be deficient in vitamins A and D for many months and B12 in some cases for years, before developing a deficiency condition.
However, vitamin B3 (niacin and niacin amide) is not stored in the human body in significant amounts, so stored vitamins may last only a couple of weeks.[i]
What Vitamins Do I Need?
There are 13 different vitamins your body needs: Vitamins A, C, D, E, K and the B Vitamins: B1, 2, 3, 5, 6, 7, 9 and 12. There are two types of vitamins;
- Water-soluble which are easily absorbed by the body and not stored in the body in large amounts. The kidneys remove those vitamins that are not needed. These include all of the B vitamins and vitamin C.
- Fat-soluble vitamins are absorbed into the body with the use of bile acids, which in turn absorb fat. The body stores these for use as needed and consist of vitamins A, D, E and K. Because they are more likely to accumulate in the body, they are more likely to lead to an overdose than water-soluble vitamins.[ii]
Each person is an individual and requires different supplementation. The supplements you may require depend on the quality of your diet, your general state of health and any current medical problems. A simple blood test can show you which vitamins your body is lacking. By knowing what you are lacking, instead of guessing, you will not be spending money on, or taking, unnecessary vitamins.
A good quality multi-vitamin which gives your body a general overall spectrum of vitamins and minerals is usually adequate for the average person. Additional supplements may also be necessary to compensate for your particular health requirements, to suit your specific needs and if you are not eating a healthy diet following the guidelines of the Standard American Diet or Canadian Food Guide. You should at least be taking the following:
- Fish Oil
- Coenzyme Q10
- Vitamin D3
If you are already taking a multi-vitamin you may wonder why you need to take any further supplements. The answer lies in the fact that your body requires tens of thousands of nutrients to stay healthy. For example a tomato has thousands of different nutrients in it consisting of vitamins, minerals and phytonutrients. Just taking a multi-vitamin cannot compensate for the various nutrients found in a well-diversified healthy diet. Vitamins ARE necessary but will NOT compensate for poor eating habits.
Are All Vitamins the Same?
The answer is NO! There are as many variations as there are manufacturers. Vitamin and nutrient supplements are NOT regulated by the FDA so there are few standards set for composition, manufacture or labeling in the United States. In Canada, supplements ARE regulated and must have a NPN number (Natural Product Number) on the container before it can be sold in Canada.
In the United States some companies produce nutritional supplements following a set of standards called GMP (Good Manufacturing Practices) and voluntarily adhere to these strict standards. Not all companies follow GMP, therefore it is important to know about the companies you purchase vitamins and supplements from.
With GMP and NPN companies you can be assured that composition of the product depicted on the label will actually be found in the bottle and that purity and quantity of each tablet or capsule is authentic. Ask about the source of their raw materials, as purity is affected by the quality of the raw material from which the finished vitamins are made. Some ingredients may interfere with your body’s ability to absorb and assimilate the nutrient you are taking, so purity is important to insure safety.
In large doses, some vitamins have documented side-effects. Consuming too much of any vitamin from food is remote, but overdosing (hypervitaminosis) from vitamin supplementation can occur. At high enough dosages, some vitamins cause side-effects such as nausea, diarrhea and vomiting. Doses of vitamins differ because individual tolerances can vary widely and appear to be related to age and state of health.[iii]
Let common sense prevail. First, make sure you need these additions to your diet before spending the money or taking something that you don’t need. Maintain a healthy diet. Have a blood test done to see if you have any deficiencies. Check labels carefully if you are buying any vitamins or supplements.
While maintaining your diet don’t forget to maintain your spine and balance with a regular check-up from your chiropractor.
[i] Wikipedia: Vitamins
[iii] Boy, E.; Mannar, V.; Pandav, C.; de Benoist, B.; Viteri, F.; Fontaine, O.; Hotz, C. (2009). “Achievements, challenges, and promising new approaches in vitamin and mineral deficiency control”. Nutr Rev 67 (Suppl 1): S24–30. doi:10.1111/j.1753-4887. 2009.00155x PMID 19453674.