Yes, the title is a little gross today, but it makes a point that you will remember as we discuss vitamins. Many people believe that vitamins are perfectly harmless and the more you take, the better you will feel. Now that so many of them are available at your local pharmacy, along with minerals and dozens of other dietary “supplements” it is actually possible to not only overdose on vitamins, but to have an adverse reaction and/or interfere with the effectiveness of your prescription medications.
Most people are familiar with the idea behind the title. Excess water soluble vitamins, such as the B complex and C, can’t be stored in large quantities by the body, so if you take too much they are simply flushed out of your system. By the way, B and C vitamins are essential for weight loss, but chances are you are getting enough from your food or a daily “multi-vitamin” tablet. Vitamin C seems to be added to everything these days so I don’t know why anyone would take it in pill form. B vitamins are found in meats, potatoes, bananas, lentils, peppers, fortified cereals, and beans.
Fat soluble vitamins such as E, A, and D may pose a problem if taken in excessive quantities. Overdoses of vitamins can lead to headaches, diarrhea, fatigue, vomiting, dry skin, kidney stones, and blurred vision. And large doses of one vitamin may actually interfere with the absorption of another, leading to a deficiency. Large doses of vitamin A are especially harmful to people who also consume large quantities of alcohol.
When it comes to purchasing dietary supplements, most medical professionals advise the public to be wary of the wonderful claims made by the manufacturers. If it sounds too good to be true, it is. Most supplements are going to enhance your diet, not CURE anything. The best way to get your daily requirement of vitamins is through a balanced diet. However, if you are in a specific group (vegan, diabetic) or have a health concern that isn’t met by your diet you may want to take one or two specific supplements such as B-12 or D. Some can interact adversely with prescription drugs so be sure to inform your doctor if you plan to add anything to your daily regimen.
There are dozens of vitamins, herbal supplements, botanicals, amino acids, and enzymes available over the counter to anyone with money. Today’s trendy solution to modern life seems to be microbial probiotics. And of course everything from juice to cereal to supplements claims to be “heart healthy”. Throw a little whole wheat and vitamin E in something and we’re taking out our wallet as fast as we can. I think the solution to all of this is simple: stop, look, listen.
Stop and examine your diet. What are you eating? What are you NOT eating? What essential nutrients might be missing from your diet if you continue to eat this way? Can you add a food or drink that provides it? Will a simple multi-vitamin provide most of the nutrients you might miss in a day?
Look on food labels. I found three foods on my refrigerator shelves that provide 100% of my daily requirement of vitamin C. Since my daily multi-vitamin also provides 100%, I’m watching a lot of vitamin C flush down the drain. I found three sources for 25% of my vitamin D, and my multi has 250%. I could go on and on. The point is that most vitamin deficiencies can be adequately covered by a good multi-vitamin. Mine has 23 “key nutrients” plus calcium and iron. Since I eat a diet that includes lots of vegetables and fruits, I figure I’m doing okay without a lot of added supplements. The only other pill I take is fish oil and I take it because of our family history of heart disease. And yes, I’ve checked my brand’s purity in light of the recent PCB controversy.
Listen to your doctor and pharmacist. Ask about over the counter supplements you want to take, especially herbal remedies. First of all, ask what your doctor thinks about the claims made for the supplement. Then find out how they will affect the medications you are taking, or how they might affect your liver or kidneys. I usually find that my pharmacist is more informed than my physician about drug interactions.
I’m not a doctor, but I think moderation is wise in this area. And I hate to watch money go down the drain!
Have a healthy day!
P.S. I’ve decided to balance my Monday nutritional diatribes with cute photos so I don’t lose skinny readers! J These are from yesterday. I found out that animals love to eat in the rain. The bunny was especially grateful that I cleaned out our refrigerator and found some old veggies. I imagine the raccoon finished off the frozen corn last night. And yes, some of the bird photos are a little fuzzy because I took them through a window that has a screen on it. More about the bird scene tomorrow.
And while I’m rambling and you are wondering- no I don’t walk around with the camera in my hand 24/7. I do keep it on the dining room table when I’m home. That way if I wander past a window and see something, or watch the birds while I’m washing dishes or cooking dinner, I don’t have to go find the camera.