In a world full of supplement companies and pharmaceuticals, lets not lose sight of what our bodies NEED. There is always going to be more powders to stir in, pills to pop and cleanses to drink, but what our bodies NEED comes down to the basics that we have been talking about for centuries…vitamins and minerals. There is a lot of buzz about getting your macronutrients in, but lets not forget that the foundation of a healthy body comes from our micronutrients (vitamins and minerals). This post today is going to break down 4 important vitamins/minerals we need to make sure are stable in our bodies for optimal health
Why we need vitamins and minerals
Each individual vitamin plays an important role in our bodies! Anything form blood coagulation to cell growth, these little nutrients do it all! Our bodies perform hundreds of tasks during the day, but none of which would be possible without vitamins and minerals. These nutrients not only are needed by the body, but we actually can’t make sufficient amounts of all of them on our own. That is why we must turn to our diet (or supplements) to aid in these body processes. Remember, the word supplement means it something enhances something else. In this case, taking the vitamin can enhance our bodies health. Supplements are not meant to take over body functions or be used as an alternative method, they are simply used to just enhance the process. The need for supplements is important because without them, we are guaranteed to develop a disease of some sort. So the use of supplements isn’t always to “enhance” something, it can actually be the difference between being healthy or getting a chronic disease. But be careful, because you also don’t want too much of these vitamins as that too can cause issues. There is a fine line, but remember that we don’t need much of these vitamins and minerals, that is why they are called “micronutrients”.
4 important vitamins/minerals for optimal health
This is not to be confused with that fact that there are 11 essential vitamins we need, these are just the 4 I want to touch on as they are the most important and people generally are low in these areas. This does not mean YOU are low in these (I would consult your doctor and get blood tests done if you are concerned), but these are things you can be looking for and making sure you are getting these vitamins for optimal health.
B vitamins are water soluble vitamins that play an important role in energy production, macronutrient metabolism and immune function. There are 8 individual vitamins in the B-complex category, but they all work to do the same general jobs. The demand for these vitamins get kicks into overdrive because of things like stress, alcohol, smoking, poor eating habits, traveling and illness’.
Food sources: B vitamins can be found in animal products (like eggs, poultry, fish), plants (whole grains, potatoes, lentils and leafy greens).
B vitamin deficiency: Although a deficiency in B vitamins cannot be deadly, it can cause things like depression, anxiety, fatigue, and brain fog.
Too much B vitamins: Most B vitamins in excess are eliminated in the urine. There are some problems that can be cause by too much B6 or B3, but are very uncommon.
Supplements: A general multivitamin usually carries all B vitamins.
Vitamin D is a fat soluble vitamin that is stored in the liver and fatty tissues. This means, those with a higher body fat composition are likely to have a deficiency because the fatty tissue absorbs the nutrient and the body cannot use it. Unlike other vitamins, vitamin D actually acts like a hormone within our bodies. We can create enough vitamin D that we do not need to supplement with it, but that is only if we get enough sunlight. Our bodies use the sunlight to convert to D3 in our bodies, so without the sun, we are not getting sufficient Vitamin D. This causes a big problems for individuals who live in northern climates where there may not be enough sunlight or the temperatures are too low to spend the recommended time outside.
Food Sources: Traces of vitamin D can be found in eggs, mushrooms and fish. But sunlight is where it is at!
Vitamin D Deficiency: Signs and symptoms include weakened immune system, fatigue, bone/back pain, depression, hair loss and muscle pain. All of which can be reversed with sufficient vitamin D levels.
Too much vitamin D: Too much vitamin D can lead to high blood calcium levels which results in nausea, constipation, and kidney stones. It is almost impossible to get too much vitamin D from our diet or the sun, it usually is caused by too much supplementation.
Supplements: GO OUTSIDE!
Calcium is one of the minerals we need a lot of for normal body function. Calcium keeps our bones and teeth strong while also supporting our skeletal structure! It also plays a role in blood clotting, muscle contraction, as well as activating certain enzymes and sending nerve signals. Calcium is also very important because it also regulates how (or if) we use our nutrients. Therefore, if we are low in calcium, then we are not properly absorbing nutrients and that causes a whole lot of other issues.
Food Sources: Everyone knows that calcium comes from milk products. But, there are a lot of people with dairy intolerances, so other sources of calcium include chia seeds, celery seeds, canned salmon, beans, lentils and almonds.
Calcium Deficiency (hypocalcemia): This is no joke. Calcium deficiency can cause some serious issues such as brittle bones, osteoporosis, heart complications and problems with blood clotting. Signs and symptoms of this deficiency can look like memory loss, brittle nails, muscle cramps, fatigue, depression and numbness in the hands/feet.
Too much calcium (hypercalcemia): This just means there is too much calcium in your blood stream. This can cause a lot of the same symptoms as calcium deficiency, except it can affect your entire body. Having too much calcium means your body cannot use it all, and therefore it is going to interact with other vitamins/hormones and cause a lot of imbalances in the body.
Supplements: Calcium citrate is the best option because it assimilates best. Do NOT go over 500-700mg of divided doses a day.
Iron is the main ingredient in blood making. We also know that we have hemoglobin (iron in blood) that transports oxygen to our body and myoglobin (iron in muscles) that help us store and use oxygen. Iron is also important in respiration and energy metabolism. So, iron deficiency means we are not properly carrying blood to different parts of our bodies…bad news.
Food sources: clams, oysters, liver, leafy greens, pumpkin seeds, beans, lentils, dark chocolate, beef, and broccoli.
Iron deficiency (anemia): The most common deficiency is lack of iron in the blood. This can be caused by extreme blood loss (like female mensuration) or just not consuming enough. The main symptoms of anemia include pale skin, headaches, cold hands/feet, fatigue and dizziness.
Too much iron: High levels of iron can actually be toxic within the body. This usually comes from too much supplementation or supplementing for too long. This toxicity is caused because the digestive system has a tight regulation on how much iron we absorb. If we have too much iron in our bodies and it can slowly start to actually damage other cells.
Supplements: You should ONLY be supplementing with iron if you were directed to by your doctor. Common reasons for supplementation include: your a female with a mensural cycle, you’re a female athlete, you’re pregnant, or you’re on dialysis.
Again, these are not the ONLY vitamins/minerals you need to be worried about, but I believe they are the ones that are commonly overlooked.
Vitamins to take daily
I get asked a lot what vitamins I recommend you take on a daily basis. Again, this is by no means medical advice and should not be taken as is. Please use this information as an educational tool and consult your doctor for further testing.
I think, based on the average American diet, that we should all be taking some kind of multivitamin. This is something that has all the essential vitamins we need in a day to carry out our body processes. If you do eat a balanced diet and feel you are not deficient in any vitamins, then just keep eating your vitamins! But if you are worried you may be low in one (or more) essential vitamins, then I would suggest Thorne Basic Nutrients. I would also recommend taking a solid fish oil supplement like Thorne Super EPA.
Again, you don’t really want to take any extra supplements or vitamins unless you KNOW your body is deficient in these nutrients. There are other things like adrenal support, adaptogens, and Omega-3 supplements that can be beneficial, but we can cover those at a different time!
I hope this helps clear up some things about vitamins and which are necessary. The industry is going to continue to be flooded with new products you HAVE to take, so just use your best judgement to determine if these supplements are actually going to benefit you or harm you. Remember, too much of a good thing can be a bad thing!