April 15, 2021
All About Vitamins
Vitamins are essential to keeping your immune system strong to effectively fight off illness and disease. Vitamins are already found in many of the foods you eat but are also available as supplements when you need an extra boost.
When taken responsibly and at the right times, vitamins can help you stay healthy and provide you with lasting energy. However, taking high doses of certain vitamins can be more hurtful than helpful, and cause setbacks in your health.
Here’s everything you need to know about vitamins, and where you can find board-certified physicians who can help you manage your daily vitamin intake.
Why and When Should Someone Take Vitamins?
Vitamins can be taken by those who want to maintain or improve their health and who cannot get the nutrients they need through diet alone. Vitamins are ideal for women who are pregnant and for people with medical conditions that prevent them from fully absorbing nutrients. For example, older adults and people who take acid-reducing medications such as proton pump inhibitors often have difficulty absorbing vitamin B12 and may benefit from taking these vitamins.
The best way to determine whether you should take vitamins is to consult with your doctor. Your doctor can review your medical history and perform evaluations to identify whether you have any vitamin deficiencies. Your doctor can also recommend quality brands of vitamins, and doses appropriate for you based on your health and medical condition.
What Are the Roles Of Each Type Of Vitamin?
There are two categories of vitamins: fat-soluble vitamins and water-soluble vitamins. Vitamins A, D, E, and K are fat-soluble vitamins, which are more easily absorbed by the body when taken with dietary fat. Water-soluble vitamins such as vitamin C are not stored in the body and must be taken regularly to maintain adequate levels.
Your body needs many essential vitamins to function optimally. Here are some of these vitamins along with the roles they play in your health.
- Vitamin A, which is essential to the formation and health of bones, soft tissue, skin, and mucous membranes.
- Vitamin B1 (thiamine) supports heart function and nerve cells and converts carbohydrates into energy.
- Vitamin B2 (riboflavin) supports body growth and the production of red blood cells.
- Vitamin B3 (niacin) supports the skin and nerves.
- Vitamin B6 supports brain function and the formation of red blood cells.
- Vitamin B7 (biotin) supports the production of cholesterol and hormones, and the metabolism of proteins and carbohydrates.
- Vitamin B9 (folate, folic acid) supports the production of DNA and manages tissue growth and cell function. It also works with vitamin B12 to support the formation of red blood cells.
- Vitamin B12 supports central nervous system function, metabolism, and the formation of red blood cells.
- Vitamin C supports the teeth, gums, tissues, and proper wound healing.
- Vitamin D helps the body absorb calcium and that supports the teeth and bones.
- Vitamin E helps the body use vitamin K and form red blood cells.
- Vitamin K supports the bones and coagulation of blood.
- Choline supports the functioning of the brain and central nervous system.
What Vitamins to Take on a Daily Basis?
You may need to take vitamins daily if you cannot get the amount you need in your diet or have a medical condition that interferes with vitamin absorption. Your doctor can recommend which vitamins you should be taking every day based on your health.
The Recommended Dietary Allowance (RDA) for vitamins reflects the average amount of a vitamin a healthy person should be getting every day. RDAs will vary from one person to the next based on factors including age, gender, pregnancy, and medical conditions.
Many doctors recommend taking the following vitamins and amounts daily:
- Vitamin A: 900 mcg (3,000 IU) for men, 700 mcg (2,333 IU) for women
- Vitamin D: 15 mcg (600 IU) for adults aged 31 to 70 years, 20 mcg (800 IU) for adults aged 71 years and older
- Vitamin E: 15 mg for adults (15 mg equals about 22 IU from natural sources of vitamin E and 33 IU from synthetic vitamin E)
- Vitamin B2: 1.3 mg for men, 1.1 mg for women
- Vitamin B6: 1.3 mg for adults aged 31 to 50 years, 1.7 mg for men, and 1.5 mg for women aged 51 years and older
- Vitamin B9: 400 mcg for adults
- Vitamin B12: 2.4 mcg for adults
- Vitamin C: 90 mg for men, 75 mg for women, smokers should add 35 mg
Dr. Lien Lam, a family doctor with Healthcare Associates of Texas located in Heath, TX adds, “I take Vitamin D myself. I take at least two thousand units daily. I think Vitamin D is important because it helps not just with our bones, but with our immune system and hormones.”
Your doctor may also recommend taking minerals on a daily basis, such as:
- Magnesium: 420 mg for men and 320 mg for women aged 18 years and older
- Zinc: 11 mg for men, 8 mg for women
- Iron: 8 mg for men and 18 mg for women aged 19 to 50 years, 8 mg for adults aged 51 years and older
- Calcium: 1,000 mg for adults aged 31 to 50 years, 1,000 mg for men and 1,200 mg for women aged 51 to 70 years, 1,200 for adults aged 71 years and older
- Potassium: 4.7 g for adults
Many of the above minerals are combined with essential vitamins in a daily multivitamin. Consult with your doctor before starting any vitamins, minerals, or multivitamins to ensure they won’t interact with your medical condition or any medications you are currently using.
Which Vitamins Can You Overdose On, and What Are the Effects?
Some vitamins can be toxic when taken in high doses and can cause serious complications including liver damage and bleeding in the brain. Always follow the directions on the bottle labels and avoid taking more than the recommended amount without first getting permission from your doctor.
Here are vitamins that can cause an overdose when used in high amounts, along with potential side effects:
- Vitamin A: Confusion, hair loss, bone loss, liver damage, coma, and death
- Vitamin B3: Impaired vision, hypertension, abdominal pain, and liver damage
- Vitamin B6: Nausea, nerve damage, skin lesions, sensitivity to light, and heartburn
- Vitamin B9: Reduced mental function, lowered immunity
- Vitamin C: Nausea, vomiting, abdominal cramps, and diarrhea with doses of 2,000 mg and higher
- Vitamin D: weight loss, reduced appetite, irregular heart rate, organ damage
- Vitamin E: Blood clots and increased bleeding, especially in the brain
- Vitamin K: Blood clots, stroke, heart attack
Consult with your doctor about how to take your daily vitamins safely to reduce your risk for an overdose.
What Causes Vitamin Deficiencies?
Vitamin deficiencies can be caused by a wide range of factors including diet, heavy alcohol use, and certain medications.
A diet lacking in healthy foods such as fruits and vegetables can cause deficiencies in multiple vitamins, while heavy alcohol use can lead to low levels of vitamin B1. Deficiencies in B vitamins can be caused by medications including anticonvulsants, antibiotics, and antidepressants.
Malabsorptive weight-loss surgeries such as Roux-en-Y gastric bypass surgery can also lead to vitamin deficiencies, as this surgery involves re-routing the intestines to help people absorb fewer calories. Medical conditions including Crohn’s disease, Celiac disease, and ulcerative colitis affect the gut in a way that prevents essential vitamins from entering the bloodstream.
“When I run labs, a lot of people are deficient in vitamin D. Vitamin D is important for your immune system, so if you’re low, your risks of getting infections are higher. You can also have trouble sleeping and feel depressed. A general multivitamin is good to take especially if you don’t eat a balanced diet,” says Dr. Lam.
Your doctor can perform tests and review your diet and medical history to help you determine the root cause of your vitamin deficiency.
What Vitamins Give You Energy?
All vitamins interact with your body in ways that contribute to higher energy. However, certain vitamins are more effective than others at directly boosting energy.
Vitamin B12 plays a role in the formation of red blood cells that deliver oxygen to all cells in the body where it is used for energy production. An antioxidant called coenzyme Q10 helps cells function optimally in the body, and is needed to produce energy.
Magnesium promotes quality sleep to help you feel well-rested and more energetic, while iron promotes the circulation of oxygen to cells throughout the body in a way similar to vitamin B12.
Some vitamin brands combine vitamin B12 with coenzyme Q10 for people lacking in these vitamins who want to increase their energy levels.
What Vitamins Help With Weight Loss?
Some vitamins increase your metabolism to help you lose excess weight. Many of these vitamins and minerals are the same as those that boost your energy.
All B vitamins are essential to maintaining a healthy metabolism including vitamins B1, B3, B6, and B12. Vitamin D supports a strong immune system and is shown to play a role in the loss of belly fat among overweight adults who combined this vitamin with calcium.
Iron helps muscles burn fat, while magnesium regulates blood sugar levels in addition to making you feel more energetic.
If your goal is to lose weight by taking vitamins, ask your doctor for recommendations on vitamins you should be taking based on your unique health situation.
What Vitamins Are Best For Hair Growth?
Vitamins A, B, C, D, and E all play a role in hair growth and may help strengthen and thicken hair.
Vitamin A is used by cells to grow hair and moisturize hair follicles on the scalp to keep your hair looking healthy. However, too much vitamin A may contribute to hair loss and balding, which is why it’s important to maintain a healthy balance.
B vitamins carry nutrients and oxygen to the scalp to support hair growth. Vitamin B7 (biotin) may be the most essential B vitamin for hair growth, as studies have linked a B7 deficiency with hair loss.
Vitamins C and E protect the hair against damage from free radicals, while vitamin D promotes the growth of new hair follicles.
If your goal is to prevent hair loss or regrow hair in thinning areas, ask your doctor about the best vitamin brands and combinations that can strengthen and grow hair.
What Foods Have Which Vitamins?
Vitamins are found in most whole, non-processed foods including fruits, vegetables, whole grains, beans, seeds, low-fat protein, and some dairy products. Eating a healthy diet composed mostly of these whole foods can often help you get enough vitamins without needing to supplement.
Here are some of the many healthy superfoods you can add to your diet, along with the percentage of RDA that can be found in each.
- Spinach: 1 cup (30 grams) has 121% vitamin K, 9% vitamin C, 16% vitamin A, 15% vitamin B9
- Blueberries: 1 cup (148 grams) has 24% vitamin C, 36% vitamin K
- Eggs: 1 egg has 6% vitamin A and 7% vitamin B5
- Lentils: 1 cup (198 grams) has 90% vitamin B9, 22% vitamin B1
- Almonds: 1 ounce (28 grams) has 37% vitamin E
- Wild salmon: 3.5 ounces (100 grams) has 51% vitamin B12, 47% vitamin B6, 50% vitamin B3, 29% vitamin B2, 18% vitamin B1
- Avocado: 3.5 ounces (100 grams) has 26% vitamin K, 17% vitamin C, 14% vitamin B5, 10% vitamin E
- Sweet potato: 1 cup (200 grams) has 769% vitamin A, 65% vitamin C, 29% vitamin B6
The above foods contain many other vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, and healthy compounds that contribute to stronger immunity, higher energy, and better overall health.
Healthcare Associates of Texas is home to a large team of board-certified doctors and medical professionals who can help you manage your diet and create a healthy meal plan. Call us today at (972) 258-7499 to make an appointment or request an appointment on our website.