Vitamins and our body

Vitamins and minerals are essential to good health.

Have you ever wondered why the word 'essential' usually precedes the term, 'vitamins'? The reason is simple. Vitamins as well as minerals ensure that our bodies function as they were designed. Interestingly, as important as vitamins are, the body lacks the ability to manufacture most on its own. Instead, it must rely on outside sources to meet its nutritional needs.

Vitamins are organic compounds and as such they're found naturally in many of the foods we consume. They're also available in the form of vitamin supplements. Thirteen different vitamins are needed to perform such crucial functions as helping protect against infections and disease, helping the body's metabolism, helping the body grow and helping the body remove waste.

Vitamins are a lot like building blocks. A healthy body is able to put these blocks together to create the enzymes and hormones that, among other things, control heart rate, blood pressure, glucose levels and other chemical reactions.

Problems associated with vitamin deficiencies

Although perhaps not noticeable at first, vitamin deficiencies can lead to serious health issues further on down the road. Few people today eat what would be considered a nutritionally-balanced diet. Many in fact, have developed some pretty poor eating habits. High fat foods, processed foods, fast food and restaurant food have taken the place of healthy foods.

Because people can't see what is going on inside the body, it's difficult to get a good understanding of the negative effects a poor diet can have on the body. Generally, it's not until the body begins putting on excess weight that the effects start to become visually noticeable. But long before the excess weight settles in, trouble is already brewing inside.

What types of problems are associated with vitamin deficiencies? Insufficient Vitamin D can cause weak or even deformed bones. Not enough Vitamin E can lead to the destruction of red blood cells. Not enough Vitamin C can cause tiredness, weakness, sore muscles and can cause gums to bleed. An overall vitamin deficiency can even lead to death.

Vitamin supplements are an effective way to fill in the nutritional gaps caused by poor eating habits. But beyond that, the only accurate way of knowing if the body is getting enough vitamins is with a blood test. If you don't think you're getting enough vitamins, you probably aren't. Do yourself a favor and find out soon.

Fat and water soluble vitamins

Most people do not even realize that vitamins are different, but they are. Besides the obvious letter difference, vitamins can be classified as either Fat Soluble or Water Soluble. Whether the vitamin is fat soluble or water soluble has to do with the way the body processes it. Should this difference matter to you? Well, yes and no.

At a basic level, whether or not a vitamin is fat soluble or water soluble doesn't really matter. What is most important is ensuring your body gets the recommended daily allowances of each. Regardless of whether you're getting your vitamins via your diet or by supplementation, avoiding a vitamin deficiency is what will keep the body in good health.

When looked at from a chemical aspect, the differences between a vitamin that is fat soluble or water soluble are fairly complicated. Most people don't care to understand all that is involved 'behind the scenes'.

What's important is that the body is able to store fat soluble vitamins but not water soluble vitamins. The fat soluble vitamins, including vitamins A, D, E and K, are absorbed through the large intestines. For this absorption process to work properly dietary fat must also be present. If fat is not eaten along with the fat soluble vitamins, it will be more difficult for the body to complete the absorption process. Once they are finally absorbed however, fat soluble vitamins are stored in the liver. There they wait until they are called on to do their jobs.

Let's take a closer look at the fat soluble vitamins. Vitamin K helps the body metabolize food into energy. It's responsible for protecting the blood's clotting ability by supplying the seven blood clotting proteins involved in the process. It's also necessary for normal bone growth.

Vitamin E is an important antioxidant. It protects Vitamins A and C and it plays a crucial role in protecting fatty acids and red blood cells from being destroyed.

Without Vitamin D, the body could not efficiently absorb calcium. Vitamin D helps regulate the amount of calcium and phosphorous in the blood. Storing Vitamin D helps ensure that even if a person doesn't drink enough milk, bones won't suffer.

Vitamin A is the vision vitamin. It helps eyes focus in dim light and helps differentiate colors. It also plays a vital role in tissue growth and differentiation. It boosts the immune system's ability to fight infection. A special protein called a transport protein helps the Vitamin A that is stored in the liver travel to the tissues where it is needed.

Water soluble vitamins, on the other hand, are not stored in the body. Because the body isn't able to store these vitamins these vitamins must be constantly resupplied. As water soluble vitamins enter the body, they are put to work. The excess is eliminated from the body via the urine. The vitamins that make up the water soluble category include the B vitamins, Vitamin C and Vitamin H (Biotin).

The B vitamins are responsible for several crucial bodily functions. During the process of converting glucose from carbohydrates, the B vitamins provide energy to the body. Without B vitamins, the body wouldn't be able to properly metabolize proteins and fats.

One of Biotin's primary responsibilities is to ensure proper growth and Vitamin C is important for its antioxidant effects but both benefit the body in many other ways, too.

If you can't get the vitamins you need from consuming a balanced diet, consider taking a multivitamin supplement. Your health depends on it!

How much is enough?

The recommended daily allowance (RDA) of the various vitamins is different depending on a person's age and current state of health. Women who are pregnant for example, need a different combination of vitamins to protect the fetus against birth defects. Adult men have different requirements than adult women. Children, teenagers and the elderly all have different nutritional requirements as well.

Thinking about food as a source of fuel is helpful. Give your body the right type of fuel and it will perform at optimum capacity. Fuel it with the wrong things, and over time, performance will begin to decline.

Multivitamins, to take or not to take

As harmless as they might seem, much controversy surrounds the issue of vitamin supplementation. Generally speaking, taking a daily multivitamin supplement is safe and effective. In fact, doing so is much safer than developing symptoms of a vitamin or mineral deficiency.

Today's hectic lifestyle makes it difficult for people of all ages to get their daily nutritional requirements from food. More time spent at work than at home means people are eating out more often. While convenient, the truth is that people are losing control of what they eat. Restaurant food offers portion sizes that are often double and even triple what they should be. Preparation methods generally involve using artery-clogging oils, and other saturated fats.

But eating out isn't the only problem. Stress wreaks havoc on the body, and often works to diminish whatever nutritional value people are getting from their food. It's difficult to escape stress, and eating on the run, and eating at odd times during the day. What's even worse, skipping meals has become a normal way of life for so many.

Nutritionally-void foods, stress, insufficient exercise, and generally poor eating habits spell disaster when it comes to eating a balanced diet. Yet these are the very reasons why so many people are choosing to supplement their diets with multivitamins.

If the above scenario sounds like the way you live your life, there's a good chance you'll benefit from a daily multivitamin supplement. It's usually not necessary to first consult with a doctor. If your health overall is good, and you're not taking any medication, a multivitamin that meets recommended daily allowances will be sufficient.

The B-vitamins and Vitamin C are water soluble so over-supplementation isn't an issue. With water soluble vitamins, the body processes what it does not use and eliminates the excess vitamins through the urine.

Fat soluble vitamins such as Vitamin A and D, are different in that the body will store excess amounts. But still, even at levels that are slightly higher than the recommended daily allowances, there shouldn't be any adverse effects. Excessive consumption however is not advisable and may even trigger health complications.

As with most things in life, when taking a multivitamin supplement, moderation is key. Keep in mind that a lot of foods are now being fortified with vitamins and minerals, especially cereals and orange juice. If ever you are in doubt as to the amount of supplementation you should give your body, the best advice is to discuss this topic with either your doctor or an experienced nutritionist.

Once you have decided that a multivitamin supplement makes sense, the only thing left to do is go out and buy some. Multivitamin supplements are available in tablet or pill form and liquid form. With so many brands available, you may want to take time to read the labels or look for a familiar manufacturer. Select the form you're more likely to take on a regular basis and you'll be one step closer to having a healthy body!