I have seen people take vitamins and supplements for many reasons:
“I am afraid I don’t get enough vitamins & nutrients in my diet.”
“My friends take them, so it must be good.”
“Vitamins can’t harm me.”
“I am a woman – every woman needs supplements like iron and calcium.”
However, most of those reasons are not good! We get often confused about whether we need vitamins and supplements or not. And, let’s face it, other than our physician there are not many non-commercial non-biased reliable resources out there to explain this to us. Often, we take vitamins for reasons that are not valid, and thus we spend a lot of money and just end up producing expensive urine (where most of the vitamins end up when our body doesn’t need them). Moreover, some vitamins are very bad for you in excess, can cause toxicity and have even been linked to cancer in several situations. So, let me simplify this for you. What vitamins and when should you take them?
- You have a special diet: vegetarian, vegan, gluten or dairy free… any diet lacking a particular group of foods may predispose you to vitamin deficiency so you should take a daily multivitamin. (Unless you are extremely careful about eating enough from each food group).
- If your doctor told you so. Obviously! Some vitamins and supplements are used for example as mood stabilizers (Omega-3, vitamin B,…), others are used if you are born with a certain metabolism deficiency, or if you have a very physically demanding career or hobby (such as professional athletes),…
- If you have very heavy periods and feel weak and fatigued, and you look pale, you may lack iron. Blood loss is how the body looses most iron because it is part of the hemoglobin in red blood cells that make up blood. Try iron supplements to see if you feel better.
- If you are a child who is a picky eater.
- If you are a post-menopausal woman you should be taking calcium and vitamin D to keep your bones strong.
- If you are pregnant or planning to become pregnant soon, you should be taking a maternal multivitamin. Those multivitamins are different from regular daily multivitamins because pregnant women and their babies have different metabolic needs, especially in iron and folate (aka folic acid).
- If you don’t eat enough healthy calories. For example, this is common in people who drink a lot of alcohol and thus get a lot of “empty calories” from their drinks and eat much less food. It is also common in people who are dieting on a regular basis and avoid eating some types of foods or eat very little calories, be it for personal or professional goals (eg. models, athletes, or if you are simply trying to lose a lot of weight). Perhaps you just got a bariatric surgery (where they staple off or cut off a part of your stomach or digestive tract to make you feel full much quicker so you can only eat tiny portions) and therefore eat very little… again, you should be taking a multivitamin to avoid complications but your doctor/surgeon has probably already explained this to you.
- You have a health condition that causes malabsorption, for example, Crohn’s disease, Ulcerative Colitis, chronic pancreatitis, a part of your small intestine was resected for whatever reason,… This will prevent the absorption of some necessary vitamins and nutrients.
Everyone else who doesn’t fit in the categories above will likely be spending a lot of money on multivitamins and supplements that will only make up for expensive urine without being of any benefit, or worse, be harmful to the body. In any case, if you have doubts whether you need vitamins and supplements, ask you doctor.
Stay healthy ❤