Get ready for a long post folks. This one’s a doozy.
One of the things that I see over and over again with my patients is confusion over vitamins and supplements, and I totally get it. There is a lot of information out there, and there are a lot of false claims. AND, vitamins are EXPENSIVE! A lot of people are draining hundreds of dollars each year on pills they don’t need, and who the heck needs that?
Below, are three vitamins you need, and three you can get rid of/should avoid.
Before we get into that though, a word on herbal supplements. (Does this sound like a PSA yet?) I don’t like them. At all. There are a lot of claims about various ones being helpful for depression, anxiety, impotence, cold symptoms. Honestly, there is probably an herbal supplement that claims to help everything. Now, it may be true that these supplements help to treat various ailments. However, my big issue with herbal supplements is that they are not monitored by the FDA. That means, you never know what you are getting in those bottles and honestly, that scares the crap out of me, and it should scare you too. I have seen patients whose lab values are totally out of whack after taking these pills, and honestly it can get super dangerous. You will find other physicians who say differently, but that is my take on it.
Okay, on to the vitamins.
3 vitamins you should be taking:
Multivitamin: If you eat a well balanced diet, you may arguably not need one. The truth is that most people in the United States do not eat a balanced diet and are likely deficient in some vitamins. If you are sexually active woman of childbearing age, you should do a prenatal vitamin as these have folate and will protect a baby from neural tube defects. I tell women to do this regardless of whether they are using contraception or not because there is no form of birth control that is 100% effective. Finally, when you are looking at vitamins, you do not need any vitamins over 100% of the daily recommended value. You are just going to excrete these anyways, and the vitamins that are fat soluble stick around and can reach toxic levels…more on that later.
Vitamin D: Unless you live in Florida, California, or Hawaii (You lucky ducks!), you should be taking Vitamin D, and honestly, if you live there, you should be using sunscreen and will still need Vitamin D supplements. We really only get a good amount of Vitamin D from the sun, and if you are wearing sunscreen, you can’t absorb it nearly as well. In Minnesota, we only get a few months a year of good sun exposure, so we are chronically deficient. Not having enough Vitamin D can lead to a lot of problems – muscle aches, depression, and decreased ability to build strong bones. A word of warning, Vitamin D is a fat soluble vitamin, which means it can build up in your body, so don’t take more than the recommended value.
Calcium: Now if you drink a lot of milk and eat yogurt and cottage cheese…and a lot of other dairy products, you may be okay with this. However, if you don’t, this is a super important vitamin. Most patients wait until they are in their 60s-70s before they start taking a calcium supplement, and honestly, you are just trying to slow down the process of bone break down at this point. And that is fine, and I totally think everyone over 65 should be taking a calcium supplement, but it is equally important that you start taking this vitamin as early as your 20s. It is well known that we are only able to strengthen our bones by increasing their density until the age of about 30. After that, our bones slowly start to degenerate. If you take calcium in your 20s, you are helping to create stronger bones. Once you are in your 30s and beyond, you are simply slowing the breakdown. It’s all about prevention guys!
3 Vitamins You Can Get Rid Of:
Fish Oil: Not too long ago, fish oil was touted as having the ability to clear out arteries and prevent them from accumulating as much plaque. However, recent studies have shown that you would have to be taking 10+ pills a day to even have a small improvement. That fishy after taste is not worth it. Eat a healthy diet with a few servings of fatty fish each week along with other healthy fats. If your heart attack risk is high enough, you should be on a statin or some other cholesterol lowering medication. This is not the answer.
Vitamin A: This is a vitamin that helps with vision. It is also found in products that are used for acne, wrinkles, and stretch marks. However, if you are sexually active, and not on birth control, you should not be using any of these products. It is super dangerous for babies, and should not be used under any conditions.
Vitamin E: Vitamin E was once recommended for patients with heart-related issues. However, studies have shown that it can actually increase patient’s risk for adverse heart-related events. So the very thing we thought we were treating, we actually make worse. Along with Vitamins A, D, and K it accumulates in your body as well. These four vitamins are ones you have to be really careful about. We don’t know a lot of what happens when you have too much vitamin in your body, but what we do know isn’t pretty.
That’s all for now! Please let me know if you have any questions!
XOXO- Emmy Lou Lou