Do vitamins actually do anything?
Working as a naturopath, this is one question I face more than any other, often from mothers looking to avoid the inevitable illnesses that seem to sweep through entire school communities from time to time.
My answer is if taken properly, vitamins can have an immensely positive impact on a person’s health.
In saying this, the opposite is also true. Like other types of medicine, if vitamins are taken incorrectly, they can have adverse health effects.
In a recent survey by Good Price Pharmacy Warehouse it was revealed that 34 per cent of parents used natural remedies to treat their children when they were ill and a further 50 per cent thought taking complimentary medicines was enough to sustain a healthy lifestyle.
However, the same survey also revealed that up to 68 per cent of people didn’t consult a health care professional before buying vitamins.
These statistics concern me, as excessive amounts of many frequently taken vitamins such as Iron, Selenium, vitamin A and even vitamin C can cause negative side effects such as fatigue, nausea, diarrhoea and worse.
So what vitamins should parents be taking, and which should they be giving to their children?
Below I have listed a couple of the most beneficial vitamins for adults and children, what they can do for your health and why they are a safe option for everybody.
Multivitamins are the easiest way to ensure you and your kids are catching up on the vitamins that might be missing from your diet.
While it is highly unlikely you will be deficient in all of the different vitamins that a multi will provide, none of them are present in large enough quantities to risk excessive consumption.
Tips for Multivitamin usage:
- Make sure you take a multi that is suitable for your gender and age. A multi for children will contain different vitamins to one for adult women. By taking one appropriate to you, you ensure the selection of vitamins and dosages are right for your body. Kids’ multivitamins can also be bought in sweet, chewy form, to make vitamin taking an enjoyable, stress free experience for children and parents alike.
- Take the right dosage. Buy multivitamins that are labelled 100 per cent daily DV. This means that the multivitamins contain 100 per cent of the recommended daily intake of the included vitamins. Avoid any with much lower or higher daily DV’s than 100 per cent- remember, too much of a vitamin can be as bad as too little.
- Take half your multi in the morning and half at night. Your body can’t absorb an entire multivitamin at once, so splitting it into two means you gain maximum benefit.
Fish Oil/ Omega 3 Fatty Acids
Fish oil capsules will provide your body with the good fats that are essential for healthy brain development in children and adults, as well as good heart and artery function, smooth skin and lubricated joints.
This means lessened risk of stroke and heart disease, diabetes, asthma and even depression and ADHD.
Tips for Fish Oil usage:
- Take the right dosage. Look for a fish oil tablet that contains 600mg of DHA. You may have to take more than one tablet to achieve this, but DHA is the fatty acid that makes up a large part of your brain tissue, and getting enough of it not only improves brain function, but also how the brain uses and stores energy. There are also many brands now that offer full doses in one tablet.
- Take fish oil in the morning. Taking fish oil in the morning ensures all day benefit.
- Keep fish oil in the fridge. To make sure your fish oil stays fresh, store it in the fridge.
Calcium with Magnesium
Without enough Calcium in your diet, your body will take it from your bones, weakening them. Taking a Calcium supplement will ensure strong bones, teeth and muscles, and is especially important for growing children.
The Magnesium element is also important, as taking Calcium on its own can cause constipation, and Magnesium will prevent this less than desirable side effect.
Tips for Calcium with Magnesium usage:
- Take the right dosage. Choose a supplement that contains 600mg of Calcium and 400mg of Magnesium, and take once a day with water.
- Don’t take Calcium with Magnesium within 2 hours of another vitamin. Calcium can block the absorption of other vitamins, so always make sure you have a break between taking it and any other supplements.
If you are still unsure about which vitamins are right for you or your child, the simplest solution is to see a GP or a qualified naturopath.
They will be able to diagnose deficiencies and give advice on the best natural remedies.