What vitamins do you need?

January 17, 2019 | by Amish Doshi, MD
Categories: Healthy Driven Life

Wouldn’t it be great if we could get everything we need to stay healthy in a pill? What if a pill could provide all our essential vitamins and minerals, help us maintain our weight, help prevent seasonal affective disorder, etc.?

Of course, that isn’t possible. Nor should it be, really. If we could pop a pill instead of eating a variety of food, exercising and spending time in the sun or doing other activities to take care of our mental health, we would live a pretty flat existence.

Before you reach for a supplement, know that the first place you should get the vitamins your body needs is from the food you eat. Eating healthy, balanced meals eliminates almost any need for supplements.

Also know that supplements aren’t intended to treat or cure diseases. That said, there are times when a vitamin can do your body good. Where your diet may be lacking, supplements can pick up the slack.

Women

Women mainly need supplements during pregnancy.

  • Iron. Sometimes women need more iron during pregnancy.
  • Folic acid. 400 micrograms daily, whether from supplements or fortified food— is important for all women of childbearing age. Folic acid should be taken before and during pregnancy.

Men

Until you’re age 50 or older, men really don’t need vitamin supplements. Men should take a close look at their diets to make sure they’re getting the vitamins and minerals they need from their food.

Kids

The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends breastfed infants receive a vitamin D supplement as newborns, as breast milk does not provide enough (even if mom is taking a supplement).

Beyond that, most kids do not need vitamin supplements. If they’re eating a well-rounded diet, they should get all the vitamins and minerals they need. If they eat an erratic diet or have a medical condition that prevents them from absorbing essential vitamins or minerals, a supplement may be needed. If you’re wondering whether your child should take a supplement, talk to your pediatrician.

The over-50 crowd

If you’re age 50 to 70, there are certain supplements you may want to consider.

  • Vitamin D helps your body absorb calcium and phosphorus. As we age, our bodies may not produce vitamin D as well as when we’re younger.
  • Vitamin B6 strengthens your immune system and gives your metabolism a boost.
  • Vitamin B12 keeps your blood cells and nerve cells healthy.
  • Folate helps prevent you from becoming anemic.
  • Calcium. If you’re at risk for bone density loss, your doctor has probably already spoken with you about calcium supplements. Note: it’s important not to exceed 2,000 mg of calcium per day.

While a multivitamin can provide the basic, essential vitamins and minerals you need, the food you eat does a better job of providing them for most healthy adults. If you’re wondering whether you need a supplement, start by analyzing your diet.

Talk to your doctor after you take a look at your (realistic) daily diet to see if he or she recommends you start a supplement. Dietitians can also help you restructure your diet to make sure you’re getting the vitamins and minerals you need from your food.

There are so many variables that can affect the way supplements work in your body — such as your gender, age, whether you’re preparing for surgery, the medication you’re taking, whether you’re pregnant or breastfeeding, and what you eat.

Don’t start taking something without asking your primary care physician whether it would be harmful or beneficial in your unique situation.

If you know you need a supplement, keep these helpful tips from the Food and Drug Administration in mind:

  • If you’re researching supplements on the internet, check noncommercial sites (e.g. NIH, FDA, USDA) rather than depending on information from sellers.
  • Remember: If manufacturer claims sound too good to be true, they probably are. Be skeptical of product claims, such as “more effective than [a prescription drug],” “totally safe,” or has “no side effects.”
  • Be aware that the term natural doesn’t always mean safe. Make sure you run supplements by your doctor to be sure they aren’t harmful.

Dr. Amish Doshi is an internal medicine physician with Edward Medical Group and is accepting new patients in Naperville! View his profile and schedule an appointment online.

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