Recommended: Use a voucher code MAS5385 to save an extra 5% when shopping for supplements on iHerb.

Humans are often looking for the easy solution. When it comes to health, we like to be able to take a pill or eat a food and fix things but nature is complex and so are our bodies. Sometimes it is not enough to take a single substance to provide a solution to an ailment.

How to work out if you need a multivitamin

In nature vitamins and minerals occur alongside other ingredients and chemicals and increasingly science is suggesting that these companion substances have a role in helping the body get the most out of the vitamins they are paired with. A simple example of this is iron and Vitamin C. We may be consuming adequate amounts of iron in our diet but if we are lacking Vitamin C then the body will not be able to get the benefit of the iron passing through our system as it cannot be absorbed.

As well-informed as we may be about nutrition and natural health, sometimes without a science or medical degree it is hard to understand what’s best for the body. A safe bet, then, is a complex supplement that offers a range of essential nutrients in appropriate ratios. A multivitamin is the most obvious example of this.

Generally, multivitamins contain a range of ingredients including: Vitamin B3, B5, B6 and B12; Vitamins A, C, D, E; zinc, magnesium, biotin, as well as iron, phosphorus, potassium, selenium, copper, iodine, and manganese.

What are minerals?

Minerals are not the same as vitamins. Minerals often come from the earth and can be found in small amounts in the foods we eat, such as plants and red meat. We need quite a lot of some minerals, and very small amounts of other minerals. The body uses minerals in cell processes that help with nerve function, and create hormones, and we also need minerals to build bones, help carry oxygen and to keep out immune systems healthy.

Minerals we need a lot of are called “macro minerals” and minerals we need in smaller quantities are called “trace minerals”. Trace minerals include: iron, manganese, copper, zinc, cobalt, iodine, fluoride and selenium. Macro minerals include: calcium, potassium, sodium, phosphorus, magnesium, sodium and chlorine. We need different amounts of each of these, and some are very common in the Western diet, such as sodium and chlorine. In fact, it is possible to have too much of a good thing!

What are vitamins?

The definition of a vitamin is reliant on whether or not the living creature that needs it can produce it by itself or needs to get it from food, whether it contains a carbon molecule, and if a deficiency of it would cause illness or metabolic upset. (If it contains a carbon molecule, in scientific terms it is called “organic”).

If the organism cannot make the organic substance for itself and has to get it from food then in that instance the material is called a vitamin. That means what is a vitamin for a human may simply be an organic compound to a chicken, if the chicken can make the compound itself.

Confused? Here’s an example. People can’t produce their own ascorbic acid (Vitamin C). We must get it from our food. Dogs, however, can make their own ascorbic acid. For them it is not a vitamin – not a nutrient they get from their food.

Said more simply, a vitamin is an organic compound that is essential for normal functioning of the body and is supplied in small quantities through the diet.

Vitamins that are essential for humans include: A (retinol), C (ascorbic acid), D, E (tocopherol), K (naphthoquinoids), B1 (thiamine), B2 (riboflavin), B3 (niacin), B5 (pantothenic acid), B6, B7 (biotin), B9 (folic acid), B12.

Some fats, such as essential fatty acids like Omega 3, 6 and 9, and amino acids are also essential for human cell functioning and good health.

Symptoms of vitamin deficiency

There are a vast number of symptoms of vitamin deficiency. They can include bleeding gums, fatigue, depression, inability to concentrate, soft bones, skin rashes, digestive upsets, dry and scaly skin, breathlessness, bruising, ulcerations, poor eye sight, susceptibility to colds, flu and other infections, loss of taste, hearing or smell, nose bleeds, aching joints, mental confusion, inflammation, nervousness, fractures, heart problems, plus many more.

If you regularly drink even moderate amounts of alcohol it is likely you are using up more B vitamins and zinc than you are replacing.

About Author:

Most people will benefit from taking a daily multivitamin, to help cover any gaps that their diet may not be covering.

Vanessa Blake is a freelance writer and health freak with a ridiculous general knowledge of nutrition and the body. No wonder she decided to study for a Diploma of Nutrition in 2003. She also loves yoga.

Recommended: Use a voucher code MAS5385 to save an extra 5% when shopping for supplements on iHerb.

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