First of all, Aysha talks about: What are vitamins exactly, anyway?
Aysha explains: Vitamins are important nutrients needed for a healthy life. Your body uses vitamins for growth, digestion, and nerve function. You can mostly get vitamins from the food you eat but people take extra doses of vitamins for several different reasons. Doctors may even recommend taking vitamins if to alleviate certain health problems or if you have a vegan or vegetarian diet. So today we will bust some common myths about vitamins!
There are two different types of vitamins: fat soluble and water soluble. Fat soluble vitamins, like Vitamin A and D, are absorbed into the fat of your body. Your body stores, or more saves, them for future use. Water soluble vitamins, like Vitamin B’s and C, are easily absorbed into your body. Your kidneys will try to remove extra doses of these vitamins when they are not needed. Fat soluble vitamins are more toxic at higher levels since you don’t pee them out. Your kidneys will remove excessive amounts of water soluble vitamins. (That’s also why peeing out Vitamin C will increase your risk of kidney stones with excessive amounts.)
A bit more Real Talk from Dr. O: Thanks Aysha, you raise some really good points! A couple of things I’ want to emphasize. Because fat soluble vitamins are stored up in your body for a long time, if you take too much of them, you can build up a toxic level that lasts for a long time. Even the water soluble vitamins can build up if you overwhelm how fast your kidneys can get rid of the excess. A lot of people think that just because vitamins are important for your health, that high doses are really good for you. That simply is not true.
Now Aysha tackles a couple common beliefs and sorts out the Real Talk about them.
Why can I only take two gummy vitamins? (Overdosing on everyday gummy vitamins?)
There really is no advantage to taking more than the recommended amount of vitamins. There are disadvantages however. So talk to your doctor about what vitamins and supplements you are taking. Make sure to know the dosage and what exactly you are taking when going to the doctor. Taking extra doses can cause permanent damage because your body can’t process through the extra vitamins. So the vitamins build up in your body and over time, they can have very serious effects on your health.
There are two vitamins to be wary and careful of: vitamin D and vitamin A, fat soluble vitamins. Your body will keep in the extra amount of the vitamin and it will build up instead of your kidneys getting rid of it. Exceeding the daily dose of vitamin D can cause hypercalcemia, or a buildup of calcium in the blood. Hypercalcemia can cause poor appetite, nausea, and vomiting. Vitamin A (retinoid), in high doses, can cause nausea, vomiting, headaches, and dry, scaly skin. More severe problems include liver damage, osteoporosis, and nervous system disorders. Overall, just having a healthy diet is the best way to get all of your vitamins and nutrients.
A bit more Real Talk from Dr. O: Lots of great points, Aysha! I want to make sure you readers out there really understand that just because vitamins are over the counter, and come in fun flavors (mmmm, gummy bears…) that does not mean you can take a limitless amount. Vitamins work with minerals and hormones in your body to keep everything in balance. You can mess up that balance by taking too much. Aysha's example about vitamin D overdose increasing your blood calcium levels is a great illustration of that.
Myth or not? Vitamin C for a cold?
Vitamin C is a vitamin that helps keep your body healthy. It is used to keep your bones, muscles, and blood vessels healthy and in shape. It helps make collagen - an amino acid that helps strengthen and protect certain body structures, but mostly skin - for your body and helps your body absorb iron.
Vitamin C should, like all other vitamins, be taken in a healthy dose. Taking more than 500 mg is of no benefit to you. More than that dosage is lost through non absorption. Too much vitamin C can lead to nausea, diarrhea, stomach cramps, and kidney stones. People with kidney diseases are advised to stay clear of vitamin C.
The idea of taking vitamin C to fight a common cold began in the 1970’s. To this day, experts do not have much information that supports this notion. It’s has been found that extra vitamin C can be helpful for some individuals but not all. Large doses may decrease the length of the cold but the person infected will still have the cold - just for a shorter amount of time. It is found to only decrease the length for 8% of adults and 14% of children. Vitamin C for colds is definitely helpful when you are already deficient in it. All in all, vitamin C does not prevent or stop a cold.
When vitamins and supplements advertise energy boosting, some have caffeine or caffeine in another form. Caffeine is the major ingredient in energy boosting vitamins and supplements. The labels will advertise having natural caffeine alternatives but in reality are just another form of caffeine or similar chemical substances with similar effects. Those other substances include: kola nut, yerba mate, green tea, and guarana.
Taking some vitamins that you are deficient - because of your diet - will give you more energy. All in all, taking these energy supplements or vitamins won’t give more energy than just having a cup of coffee. Also having a balanced diet would help give all of the energy you need for the day! The best way to have vitamins for energy is to have a balanced diet, plenty rest, and exercise. Also just because something is natural, that does not make it safe. Poison ivy is natural, but it’s still not safe!
A bit more Real Talk from Dr. O: Thanks Aysha, you raise some really good points! It’s funny because I googled "vitamins and energy" and what pops up? One ad after another basically masquerading as truth and information. Take a look! Now, not getting the right nutrition certainly will affect energy levels adversely, so in situations where recommended doses of vitamins cannot be achieved with regular foods, supplements (not overdoses!) are helpful. BUT if you have healthy levels of vitamins from your diet, there is no need for more and it is a waste of money! How much money, you ask? Well, drum roll please – Americans, for example, spend $28 BILLION (!!!) a year on vitamins!!!!! Vitamins cannot make up for an unhealthy diet!!!
Pizza, burgers, chips, shakes, fries, fast food, cookies, candy, sodas are NOT canceled out by vitamin pills!
Myth or Not? Does biotin even work? Or how does it work? Long terms effects if you stop using biotin?
Biotin, Vitamin H, is a vitamin found in several foods - in small amounts - like liver, cauliflower, salmon, carrots, bananas, soy flour, cereals, and yeasts. Biotin deficiency can result in hair thinning, a red skin around the face, and depression. Smoking cigarettes will also increase biotin deficiency. However, there is not necessarily a laboratory test to prove biotin deficiency. So doctors may advise taking it based on your symptoms. Biotin vitamins are taken orally to prevent these symptoms. The vitamin is proven helpful when someone is deficient, and only then, for hair thinning, thickening brittle nails, and mild depression. However, studies show that it does not necessarily stop hair loss.
Biotin works as an enzyme to break down fats, carbohydrates, and converts protein into urea. It also converts amino acids from protein into sugar for energy.
Since biotin is water-soluble, it can be easily removed from the body through urination. Biotin is relatively nontoxic and does not have any known side-effects. Some people said when they overdosed on biotin, they had a rash or an itchiness. There are no long term effects if you stop using biotin.
A bit more Real Talk from Dr. O: Biotin is interesting as it goes by a number of different names – Vitamin H, or Vitamin B7, coenzyme R, etc. The best place to get biotin, as well as all the other B vitamins (B1, B2, B3, B5, B6, B7, B12 and folate), is through a healthy diet that includes proteins like meat, eggs, fish and the like. Again (and you probably are seeing the pattern here!) any vitamin pill, including biotin, is only really useful if you have a deficiency. It’s hard to have a biotin deficiency if you eat a healthy diet.
Aysha says: In conclusion, taking extra doses of a vitamin is really only helpful when you are deficient in the vitamin either by your diet or a medical condition. Having a healthy, balanced diet, enough rest, and exercise will take away the need of taking extra doses. As always, ask a doctor before starting to take a new vitamin or supplement!
Last words from Dr. O: AGREE COMPLETELY with Aysha there! Nothing replaces a healthy diet, and vitamins are not miracle makers. Vitamins in their natural state in the foods that they naturally occur travel into your body with things that help them get absorbed and utilized by your body better. There are medical conditions that some people have that will make them deficient in one or more vitamins. These are things you should sort out with your doctor.
That’s it for today! Thanks to Aysha for being our first ever guest blogger! If you are interested in being a guest blogger for Real Talk with Dr. Offutt, just contact us HERE