Essential Guide for Taking Vitamins and Supplements
Vitamin supplements, so many forms, brands, and varieties. While it’s easy to be intrigued with the benefits offered by vitamin supplements, determining which ones are best for you, can be a daunting task. A multitude of factors are to be considered when purchasing supplements such as age, gender, health conditions, and lifestyle.
When possible, attaining required vitamin levels through diet is suggested. However, as individual needs vary, the need for vitamin supplements may arise. In such cases, vitamin supplements can fill the void, eliminate deficiency and help individuals maintain a healthy balance.
Remember, there is such a thing as too much of a good thing. Following the suggested daily recommended intake will help ensure safe vitamin supplement consumption.
8 Vitamins and Supplements Doctors Recommend: Essential Guide
To help determine which vitamin supplements are suitable for you, details on integral vitamins and supplements are provided. Consulting with a physician before consuming vitamin supplements is recommended.
Vitamin D is essential in maintaining bone health and plays a role in supporting mental health. As a catalyst for healthy bones, vitamin D promotes calcium and phosphorus absorption. Without sufficient Vitamin D, bones can become thin, brittle, or misshapen (1).
Concerning mental health, studies have shown a high prevalence of vitamin D deficiency in depressed patients. Relatedly, studies show that high doses of vitamin D are helpful in lowering symptoms of depression (2).
The impact of vitamin D on bone health and mental health cannot be overstated. Gail Saltz (MD, psychiatrist and published author) explains, “Vitamin D is extremely important for maintaining bone health, but from a mental-health perspective, low vitamin D levels have been implicated in depression” (12).
Considering most people can attain sufficient vitamin D levels solely from the sun, it may be difficult to comprehend how an individual can be deficient in vitamin D. However, vitamin D deficiency can occur for various reasons. Minimal sun exposure can result from living in northern latitudes, having dark skin, using sunscreen or wearing concealing clothing.
While vitamin D is readily available in fish such as salmon, sardines, tuna, and mackerel, there are few other food sources of vitamin D. Fortified foods such as dairy and orange juice are among the limited food sources of vitamin D.
Recommended Daily Intake
Experts recommend a daily intake of 600 IU (International Units) of vitamin D up to age 70. Men and women over age 70 should increase their intake to 800 IU/ per day. The Institute of Medicine recommends no more than 4,000 IU per day for adults (8).
Appropriate levels of vitamin D may vary by individual. Consulting with a doctor to determine sufficient levels is recommended.
B vitamins play important roles in energy production, synthesis and repair of DNA and RNA, and carbohydrate, protein, and fat metabolism. They may also help calm and maintain a healthy nervous system and can be important in the maintenance of healthy skin and muscle tone (6).
Elizabeth Trattner, (AP, LAc, Florida-based acupuncture physician), details benefits of a few select B-vitamins, “B6 helps with brain function, B12 helps with nerve function and mood, and folate is synergistic with B12 and helps elevate mood”(12).
In total, there are 8 individual members of the B family, commonly referred to as B-complex. In addition to B6 (pyridoxine) and B12 (cobalamin), the B complex includes B1 thiamin, B2 riboflavin, B3 niacin, B5 pantothenic acid, B7 biotin and B9 folic acid.
Older adults and pregnant need a larger intake of vitamin B to prevent deficiency. Poor absorption of vitamin B can be caused by conditions such as Chron’s disease, Celiac disease, HIV and excessive alcohol consumption.
Recommended Daily Intake
Daily recommended Intake of B complex vitamins (9).
mg= milligrams, mcg= micrograms
- B1: (male) Age 18+, 1.2mg. (female) Age 14-18, 1.0mg. Age 19+, 1.1mg.
- B2: (male) Age 18+, 1.3mg. (female) Age 14-18, 1.0 mg. Age 19+, 1.1mg.
- B3: (male) Age 18+, 16mg. (female) Age 18+, 14mg.
- B5: (male/female) Age 18+, 5mg.
- B6: (male) Age 18-50, 1.3mg. Age 51+, 1.7mg. (female) Age 14-18, 1.2mg. Age 19-50, 1.3mg. Age 51+, 1.5mg.
- B7: (male/female) Age 14-18, 25mg. Age 19+, 30mg.
- B9: (male/female) Age 18+, 400mcg.
- B12: (male/female) Age 18+, 2.4 mcg.
When looking for vitamins, you want to make sure that the brand you choose, at the very least, let’s you know what form they are using. Consider the B complex vitamins, all 8 of them. Adding to the complexity is that each B vitamin comes in various forms. For instance, vitamin B12 is available as cyanocobalamin, methylcobalamin, hydroxocobalamin, and dibencozide.
Which one should you choose? That can be difficult as individual needs may vary, but in general, you want to choose a form that is the most bioavailable. Bioavailability is a term that refers to two main things, how well absorbed and how readily usable a nutrient is to our bodies, the higher the bioavailability the better. For more information on which form is best for you, it is suggested ask your healthcare practitioner.
Adequate intake of magnesium can help prevent problems with bones, the cardiovascular system, diabetes, and other functions. It’s also an essential element in brain function, states Carolyn Dean- (MD and member of the Nutritional Magnesium Association’s medical advisory board), “magnesium is an excellent brain nutrient…a memory and focus enhancer” – (12).
Magnesium deficiency occurs in 80% of individuals. In a society that preaches the importance of other minerals such as calcium, magnesium has fallen in the priority order. Magnesium deficiency may also be influenced by excessive alcohol consumption, a gastrointestinal disorder and use of some medications (16).
Recommended Daily Intake (3).
Males: 400-420 mg
Females: 310-320 mg
Pregnancy: 350-400 mg
Breastfeeding women: 310-360 mg
Zinc is a mineral that makes the integral genetic material, DNA, the force that tells your body how to work the way it should (17).
Not stopping at DNA formation, “zinc is one of the most important minerals to stave off infection. It promotes immunity and helps your body resist invasion by bacteria and viruses. It is also important for nervous system development, and for moms-to-be, zinc is super important for a healthy pregnancy”, says (Tania Elliott, MD, allergist and chief medical officer of the preventative health company EHE) (12).
A leading cause of zinc deficiency is inadequate dietary intake (4). Poor absorption can also lead to excess amounts of zinc to be lost from the body. A host of chronic conditions can lead to zinc deficiency such as alcohol addiction, cancer, celiac disease, chronic diarrhea, chronic kidney disease, chronic liver disease, Chron’s disease, diabetes, pancreatic disease, sickle cell disease and ulcerative colitis (4).
Recommended Daily Intake (5)
- Adults (male): 11mg
- Adults (female): 8mg
- Pregnant teens: 12mg
- Pregnant women: 11mg
- Breastfeeding teens: 13mg
- Breastfeeding women: 12mg
Ensure the product lists the form of the mineral being used and the elemental value you are getting in that form. For instance, magnesium citrate is approximately 16% magnesium by weight. Therefore, 500mg of magnesium citrate will contain 80mg of elemental magnesium, the remaining 420mg will be citric acid.
Probiotics are live bacteria an yeasts that are good for your health, particularly your gut. In fact, “taking a daily probiotic supplement can boost digestive health and help to fill in the gaps when we can’t eat as well as we would like. Most people can benefit from a daily probiotic, but it is especially helpful for individuals who may suffer from occasional gas, bloating, constipation, or diarrhea”, says- (Anish Sheth, MD, chief of Gastroenterology at the University Medical Center of Princeton and author of The Complete What’s Your Poo Telling You? (12).
Recommended Daily Intake
Because there are so many different probiotic organisms, there is no set dosage. Individuals interested in using probiotics should consult their healthcare provider for proper advice.
As a general rule, look for a variety of strains that include both Lactobacilli and Bifidobacterium. You should also be able to identify the exact type of organism being used; this will include the Genus, species, and strain. For instance, Lactobacillus acidophilus (HA-122), which states the Genus, species, and strain respectively.
Feeling a little overwhelmed? You may want to incorporate some L-theanine into your life. “This superstar amino acid relaxes the mind. It increases levels of serotonin and boosts alpha waves in the brain. The easiest way to get a healthy dose of L-theanine is by drinking matcha, a whole leaf tea that’s also high in antioxidants and chlorophyll”, according to Dr. Elizabeth Trattner (12).
In addition, theanine is often used to treat high blood pressure and help with symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease(10).
Recommended Daily Intake
There is no RDI for theanine like vitamins and minerals, but it is typically taken in doses that range from 150mg-200mg. Theanine is typically taken for shorter periods of time or only taken when needed. It can be enjoyed in green tea, particularly match green tea by using a supplement.
Apple Cider Vinegar
A key benefit of apple cider is the assistance it provides in glucose control. The process in which apple cider vinegar supports glucose control is described by Rashmi S. Mullur, MD, (an assistant clinical professor at the David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA, Division of Endocrinology, Diabetes, and Metabolism) “the active ingredient in apple cider vinegar is thought to affect blood sugar levels in two ways. It delays the rate at which the stomach empties so there is less of a blood sugar spike after a meal, and the acetic acid in the vinegar may also work to prevent carbohydrate breakdown and absorption” (12).
Apple cider vinegar has often been explored as a solution for weight loss. Studies have shown nominal evidence that apple cider vinegar can aid in weight loss, though further testing is required. It is not known whether taking apple cider vinegar in isolation or with meals is more effective (18).
Apple cider vinegar, in addition to being a nice ingredient to salads, contains antioxidant chemicals known as polyphenols. Polyphenols can help stave off cell damage that can lead to diseases, such as cancer (13).
Apple Cider Vinegar Guidelines
Remember these 3 simple rules when purchasing apple cider vinegar.
1- It should be raw.
2- It should be organic.
3- It should be “with the mother”: Apple cider vinegar that still has the culture of beneficial bacteria that turns regular apple cider into vinegar in the first place.
Recommended Daily Intake
Apple cider vinegar is a recommended cooking additive to salad dressings or in baking. It contains a lot of acid so drinking it straight is not recommended. Adding one or two tablespoons to water or tea is the suggested course of action.
Omega-3 fatty acids are essential for the body to function, and at the same time can provide mighty health benefits. in fact, “research shows that omega-3, a phospholipid found in fish oil, plays an important role in blood pressure and cholesterol control. Other studies have shown it reduces the cognitive decline in Alzheimer’s patients and the progression of age-related macular degeneration, as well as helps with rheumatoid arthritis”- (Kerem Bortecen, MD, an endovascular and interventional surgeon at NYC Surgical Associates)(12).
Essential fatty acid deficiency is rare. Essential fatty-acid deficiencies are usually only found in infants receiving parenteral nutrition that lacks polyunsaturated fatty-acids (PUFA’s) (14).
Recommended Daily Intake (15)
- Birth – 12 months: 0.5g*
- 1 – 3 years: 0.7g**
- 4-8 years: 0.9g**
- 9-13 years (male): 1.2g, (female) 1.0g**
- 14-50 years (male): 1.6g, (female) 1.1g, (pregnancy) 1.4g, (lactation) 1.3g**
- 51+ years (male): 1.6g, (female) 1.1g**
*As total Omega-3 (EPA/DHA)
** As ALA (Alpha Linolenic Acid)
Ensure they are tested by an independent, reputable third party such as IFOS (International Fish Oil Standards), or PureCheck. When looking for fish sources of Omega-3, small varieties of fish are suggested. Small fish such as sardines, anchovies, and mackerel are lower on the food chain and are likely to have lower levels of bioaccumulation, and toxicity levels.
Ground Rules When Looking For Supplements
1- Look for a company that does third-party testing on the potency and purity of their products. A company that has performed third-party testing will claim so on the label and will tell you on the company website.
2- Look for frequent batch testing to support label claims. A reputable supplement provider should be able to verify these tests with an independent assay for minerals and a certificate of analysis of other raw materials used.
3- Transparency with regards to sourcing of raw materials, particularly with herbal products is recommended. Again, information regarding product sourcing should be listed on product labels as well as the company website.
4- Ensure the product is produced in a GMP (good manufacturing practice) facility. GMP will be listed on the bottle and company website.
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