When Do You Need to Take Vitamins?

Vitamins are compounds produced by the body in small quantities that are essential for the normal functioning of your body. There are a total of 13 vitamins and they are classified as water soluble vitamins and fat soluble vitamins. Fat soluble vitamins are A, D, E and K and water soluble vitamins are B-complex vitamins and vitamin C. Although the body synthesizes vitamins, it depends on food sources to fulfill its needs. Sometimes even the foods you eat may not fulfill your body’s vitamin needs and you may develop deficiencies. In such cases it is recommended that you take vitamin supplements. There are a number of over-the-counter vitamin supplements available and some supplements are prescribed by doctors. However, you should be cautious while making the decision to consume vitamin supplements.  

Should You Take Vitamins Supplements?

People take vitamin supplements to ensure that their body gets its required supply of vitamins. It is always recommended that you acquire your daily recommended dietary allowance of vitamins through natural food sources. You should know the daily dietary requirements of vitamins and the amount you need before deciding to consume a vitamin supplement.

Vitamin supplements are essential for individuals who show vitamin deficiencies, pregnant or breast feeding women and people with restricted food preference such as vegans. However, it is highly recommended that you fulfill your body’s vitamin requirements through natural food sources you consume.

Precautions: consuming vitamin supplements is not always beneficial. Vitamin supplements can have various side effects that can harm your body. They can interact with the medications you take for your other health problems. They can also aggravate certain health problems you already have. If you consume some vitamins in excess they can cause toxic reactions in your body. It is better that you discuss with your doctor before starting a multivitamin supplement. It is also recommended that you are aware of the reputation of the brand of supplements you are taking and the quality of the product they are selling.

Should you take vitamin? Below is a description of a few vitamin supplements:

Vitamin A

Vitamin A helps in the formation and maintenance of healthy bones, teeth, mucus membranes, soft tissues and skin.

Vitamin A is available in supplements as preformed vitamin A (retinyl acetate and retinyl palmitate) or provitamin A (beta carotene) or a combination of both.

Who should take vitamin A supplements?

Individuals who are prone to vitamin A deficiency include:

  • Premature babies who exhibit vitamin A deficiency during their first year
  • People suffering from cystic fibrosis
  • Infants and children
  • Pregnant and breastfeeding women  

The most common symptom of vitamin A deficiency is xerophthalmia (unable to see in dim light). Untreated xerophthalmia can also lead to blindness. Vitamin A supplements are recommended for people who are prone to or suffering from its deficiency.

Vitamin B Complex

Vitamin B complex consists of vitamins B1 (thiamin), B2 (riboflavin), B3 (niacin), B5 (panthothenic acid), B6 (pyridoxine), B7 (biotin), B9 (folate) and B12 (cobalamin).

Vitamin B6 helps in maintaining brain function and form RBCs. Vitamin B12 is important for maintaining metabolism. Biotin is essential for protein and carbohydrate metabolism. Niacin helps in maintaining the health of nerves and skin. Folate helps in the formation of RBCs. Pantothenic acid helps in the metabolism of food.

Who should take vitamin B complex supplements?

Vitamin B12 deficiency can lead to megaloblastic anemia. The symptoms of anemia include fatigue, dizziness, headache, pale skin and weight loss, sore tongue and mouth ulcers. Vitamin B1 and B2 deficiencies are asymptomatic. Vitamin B9 deficiency causes birth defects in babies and its common symptom in adults is diarrhea. Vitamin B6 deficiency causes irritation, rash, depression and makes you prone to infections.

Should you take vitamins B? People who are vegetarian and people suffering from pernicious anemia can take vitamin B supplements. People who are prone to and suffering from vitamin B deficiencies can consume it as a supplement.   

Vitamin C

Vitamin C is present in the supplements mostly as ascorbic acid but it may also be present as calcium ascorbate and sodium ascorbate.

Vitamin C promotes the health of gums and teeth.

Who should take vitamin C supplements?

  • Vitamin C deficiency is present in smokers, infants fed with cow’s milk instead of breast milk, people who have dietary restrictions and people suffering from some forms of cancer and kidney problems.
  • People who have extreme vitamin C deficiency develop scurvy. Scurvy is characterized by inflammation of the gums, fatigue, red or purple spots on skin, joint pain, problems with wound healing and anemia. It can even lead to death if not treated.

Vitamin D

Vitamin D is present in supplements as ergocalciferol (D2) and cholecalciferol (D3). It helps your body in the absorption of calcium. Vitamin D deficiency in children leads to rickets (bones become soft and bend) and in adults it causes osteomalacia (bone pain and muscle weakness).

Who should take vitamin D supplements?

Vitamin D deficiency is present in:

  • Breastfed infants because the vitamin D content is low in human milk. Infants should be given 400 IU of vitamin D through supplements each day.
  • Old people should be given vitamin D supplements as their skin has decreased ability to make vitamin D and people with dark skin as their skin cannot synthesize vitamin D efficiently.
  • Obese individuals as the fat in their body absorb vitamin D and decrease its blood levels.
  • People with disorders in fat metabolism such as Crohn’s disease and celiac disease.

Should you take vitamins? People who are prone to develop vitamin D deficiency should take vitamin D supplements; however, you should talk to your doctor before starting them.

Vitamin E

Vitamin E helps in the formation of red blood cells. Vitamin E deficiency causes loss of sensation in the arms and legs due to damage to the nervous system, vision loss and loss of movement control and weakened immune system. Vitamin E supplements are recommended for people with vitamin E deficiencies.

Who should take vitamin E?

Vitamin E deficiency is usually present in people with disrupted fat metabolism as fat is required for the absorption of vitamin E. Vitamin E deficiency rarely occurs in healthy individuals.

Vitamin K

Vitamin K helps blood to coagulate. Vitamin K is present in supplements as phylloquinone and phytonadione (vitamin K1), menaquinone – 4 and menaquinone-7 (vitamin K2). Vitamin K deficiency is associated with bleeding gums and bruising as the blood is unable to clot efficiently. It is also associated with osteoporosis as vitamin K is associated with maintaining bone health.

Who should take vitamin K supplements?

Vitamin K is present naturally in foods and it is also produced by bacteria in the gut which is used by the body. People who are prone to vitamin K deficiency include:

  • Newborns who weren’t given vitamin K injections at birth
  • People suffering from cystic fibrosis, ulcerative colitis and celiac disease in whom vitamin K absorption is disrupted
  • People who have had surgery for weight loss