The 411 on vitamins

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man drinking healthy green smoothie

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), vitamins and minerals, also known as micronutrients, are essential for healthy development, disease prevention, and well-being, and they are primarily consumed by the through food or supplements.

A survey conducted by the Harris Poll on behalf of the American Osteopathic Association found that more than four out of five American adults take over-the-counter vitamins or supplements. Taking any daily vitamin may seem beneficial to our health, but it’s also important to make sure you don’t consume too much of it.

“Some vitamins are water-soluble, and some are fat-soluble. If you take too many water-soluble vitamins like vitamin B-12 and vitamin C, your kidneys will excrete them and you will urinate. For some fat-soluble vitamins, if you take too much your body will retain them and it can affect your chemical balance, electrolytes and calcium balance, so you don’t want to take a ton,” says Anne Orzechowski, APRN, family medicine nurse practitioner OSF HealthCare.

Vitamins A, D, E, and K are considered fat-soluble, according to the National Institutes of Health (NIH). Because fat-soluble vitamins are stored in the body instead of eliminating any amount of access, they are the ones at higher risk for vitamin toxicity.

One fat-soluble vitamin that tends to be widely overconsumed is vitamin D. In fact, earlier this year, a man in the UK made headlines around the world when he was hospitalized with toxicity. to vitamin D. The reason for this overuse, as well as the overuse of other over-the-counter supplements, is that many people don’t realize that they are also getting these nutrients from the foods they eat. Supplements are only really necessary if you are lacking in a particular vitamin.

When it comes to vitamin D, Orzechowski says a blood test is needed to find out if you’re deficient or not.

“You’re really not going to have any signs of vitamin D deficiency, so you really won’t know. We care about it when you get older or when you’re post-menopausal because it’s important for your bones and prevents osteoporosis, so you might not notice if you’re low on vitamin D,” says Orzechowski.

In addition to sunlight, foods that contain vitamin D include certain fish, orange juice, dairy and plant milks, egg yolks, and certain cereals. Other essential vitamins come from foods such as fruits, vegetables, seeds, nuts and meat.

To really know what your body might be lacking, or to find out if you really need to increase your daily dose of vitamins or not, Orzechowski recommends talking with your primary care provider about any concerns you have.

Symptoms that may indicate a true vitamin deficiency — such as fatigue, hair loss, poor vision, restless legs, constipation, easy bruising and muscle cramps — tend to go unnoticed.

“We tend to feel what we feel and get used to it, so if we get a little tired we just plow all day. But I think it’s a good idea to get your labs done once a year to check if you’re anemic, make sure your electrolytes are good, check your liver and kidneys, make sure your blood sugar is at a good level and make sure your vitamin D is not super low. So I think just getting your blood drawn once a year is a really beneficial way to be proactive about your health – and then we can kind of talk and see which supplements you might be interested in and which might really benefit you,” advises Orzechowski.

Most importantly, eating a healthy diet and listening to your body is key, as there is no one answer on whether or not you should head to your local store to stock up on vitamin supplements. .

“The jury is still out. There are a few that aren’t recommended, but the one that probably won’t hurt or harm you is simply a multivitamin, because not everyone eats seven to nine servings of fruits and vegetables a day. It’s something you can usually eat and feel good about,” says Orzechowski.

Make an appointment with your primary care provider if you are concerned or have questions about your vitamin intake. If you don’t have a primary care provider, find one at www.osfhealthcare.org

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