Do I Really Need Vitamins?

August 28, 2011 · Posted in Health, Vitamins 

There are two trains of thought when it comes to vitamins and diet. The first one is the scientific thought that says you need these chemicals in whatever form to maintain health. This group knows the way vitamins work and the part they play in bodily functions. The second group is the general population who think that you get all the vitamins you need in your daily diet, but sometimes they wonder if they need more. This article is my attempt to show the middle ground between these two trains of thought.

First, what is a vitamin. Vitamins are organic compounds that you can find in food. Vegetables, fruit, meat, fish, nuts, grains all contain vitamins. So the question becomes, “Why do we need to think about vitamins at all?” The answer is not quite clear-cut and requires some examination. While it is true that if we were to only eat fresh (unprocessed) food we would probably get our vitamins, much like our ancestors did. However, if we are honest and examine the food we’ve eaten in the last 48 hours, I believe you would not find much in the “unprocessed” column and quite, if not all, in the “processed” column.

Today, fast-food defines our diets. We eat on the go, rarely taking time to even think about the food we are putting in our mouths. Eating has become something we have to do while we do other things. Granted, we are probably getting small amounts of vitamins from our food, but what is the quality of those vitamins and can our bodies actually use them?

I could get all technical and tell you all about the Krebs cycle and digestion, but I won’t. To simplify, we will simply look at the basics. Food (good, bad, or otherwise) goes into your mouth where your body begins to break it down into separate building blocks that your body needs. Some food gets used up immediately, some is stored. The problem begins when the food at the beginning doesn’t contain the necessary building materials your body needs. At that point, your body will begin tearing down its stores to supply the necessary blocks. When this happens, you may begin to show the signs of a deficiency.

We all learned in elementary school that lack of Vitamin C causes scurvy-a disease of the mouth and blood vessels. We were told that lack of Vitamin D caused rickets-softening of the bones and teeth. Our mothers told us to eat our carrots so we would have good eyesight; and we all knew that eating spinach gave you strength and stamina from watching cartoons. All of these are true. However, when these foods are processed and cooked, they lose most of their vitamins and so you have to eat larger and larger quantities to get the amount you need.

So how then do you get your vitamins? Most people will say that they will simply watch their diet and make sure to increase the amount of fresh fruits, vegetables, and nuts. This would work if in fact we did it, but as most dieters will tell you, changing your dietary habits is difficult at best and the temptation to return to your old eating patterns is hard to resist. In today’s fast pace, I don’t really see us returning to the ways of the “hunters and gatherers” for our dietary needs.

Vitamin supplementation is one answer. Man-made vitamins and natural vitamins all do the same thing when they get into your body. They both provide the body with necessary building blocks. Your body doesn’t care if the block is natural or man-made because at the cellular level that doesn’t matter at all.

You may decide to ask your family physician for help in deciding about this, and I would recommend that you do just that when you have a health concern. Unfortunately, current medical training does not give but a cursory look at nutrition and diet, and you may find that the doctor doesn’t have the answer you are looking for. Most physicians will okay taking an over-the-counter daily vitamin as harmless.

But you live in your body. You know more about what is going on than any other person. Examine every aspect of your body. Is your hair brittle, thinning, dry? Do your gums bleed with little or no provocation? Are you having trouble conceiving? Do you feel tired and fatigued no matter what you do? Do cuts and scratches heal quickly or take quite a while? Do you catch everything that is going around you? If you answer yes to any of these questions, you may want to think about your diet.

    • Vitamin A, in addition to helping your eyes, keeps your mouth and gums healthy, your skin clear, and helps maintain a healthy reproductive system. This is a fat soluble vitamin, so overdose is possible.
    • Vitamin B-there are twelve different B vitamins-aid in digestion of food to provide energy on a cellular level, detoxify your internal organs, help with nerve function, and increase the level of oxygen in the bloodstream.
    • Vitamin C aids in immune system functioning, helps wounds heal, strengthens the blood vessel walls, and acts to remove toxins.
    • Vitamin D-which is really a hormone-works in just about every system of the body, but the essential function is to provide strength to bones and teeth and maintain the integrity of the skin.
    • Vitamin E helps to increase the oxygen available to every cell in your body, it helps blood cells stay healthy, and acts to heal lesions in and outside the skin.
  • Vitamin K acts to help your blood clot so a simple scratch is nothing to worry about.

I hope you will use this information to decide for yourself if supplementation is called for. You are the only one who can really decide this. It is important that you understand that the water soluble vitamins-B & C-need to be replenished daily as your body cannot store them. The fat soluble vitamins-A,D,E, & K-are stored in the liver until you need them so you should monitor the daily intake of these vitamins. I hope you find this information useful and I hope I have helped you understand the actions of vitamins in your body. With understanding, we can make changes.

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