Having Diabetes has made many of us eager to learn more about our health, and diets, and willing to make the necessary changes to improve our wellbeing. In this quest for better health, we may learn about different foods, vitamins and minerals, and their key roles in our daily nutritional balance. But, while it is very true that we need a spectrum of vitamins and minerals every day for the proper functioning of our bodies, it is NOT true that we should ALL take a daily supplement. In fact, only certain individuals should take supplements, and MORE is not necessarily a good thing; it is often a very bad thing.
Supplements Are a Waste of Money
If you consume a healthy, well balanced diet, you are already getting the vitamins and minerals that you need. And by healthy, well balanced diet, I do not mean to exclude those who may eat a lot of empty calories, or junk food. As unreal as it sounds, even those people are getting all vitamins and minerals they need. I am here talking about people who are unwilling or unable to eat a balanced diet, or who exclude entire food groups. People such as young children who are picky eaters, those who are lactose intolerant, those who are vegan or vegetarians, the elderly, those who have cancer or are so chronically ill that they cannot eat in proper amounts, or even some pregnant women. While some folks may have a true Vitamin deficiency, this can usually be identified with a complete metabolic profile, and will only require to supplement usually one or two vitamins. Not an entire group of other vitamins.
So, then, if you have a balanced diet, and your body has adequate levels of vitamins and minerals from it, what happens with all those other extra supplements? Well, most of them go down the toilette. Yes, about 90% of multivitamins go down the toilette, and are not consumed by the body. The reason for this is that replacing vitamins in our body's system is often not as simple as taking a pill: some vitamins and minerals need fiber, some need fat, and some need a good balance of other vitamins and minerals in order to be processed appropriately by the body. A pill simply cannot provide this kind of delivery mechanism. In addition, the body has limited storage for most vitamins and minerals, and will get rid of the rest through urine.
So, if your body cannot tell the difference between a $1.33 carton of eggs, and a $10 bottle of vitamins, go for the eggs! One egg, in it's yolk, has about 90% of all the daily vitamins and minerals that we need.
Supplement Overdose is Dangerous
Often we think that supplements and minerals (and even herbs), because they are natural things, will not harm us, and will make our bodies stronger. It's hard to know what to believe, especially when there are many alarmists out there, trying to convince us into believing there is something awfully wrong with us, and that that we must all buy all their supplements and aids. They show you one side of the picture: the issues caused by vitamin deficiencies, yet they will not tell you the other side of the picture: that a.) You will not know that you are vitamin deficient unless your doctor runs some labwork, and b.) That too much vitamin intake can cause intoxication and overdose, as well as interfere with the balance of other vitamins and minerals, as well as the absorption of medications.
While some vitamins are water soluble, and the body can flush away most of what it doesn't need, many others are fat soluble, and the body will accumulate more and more in the system, causing toxic consequences. Many vitamin excesses can often lead to HIGHER blood sugar, instead of lower blood sugar, as we would like to achieve. Doses higher than 4,500 mg of Vitamin C may cause blood sugar to rise, and make a patient seem as though he has Diabetes. (1.) Excessive Niacin (B3) supplementation will also increase your daily blood sugars, and in fact... Some studies have suggested that overdosing on Niacin, and the over-fortification of some foods with Niacin, may play a role in developing obesity, and Type 2 Diabetes. (2,3.) Supplement stores don't often tell you which levels are safe, and often carry supplements with levels much higher than what we need, or what is tolerable for our systems. You do not need to take a megadose of thousands of miligrams or grams all the time to overdose on a vitamin, either. Niacin is one example.
Some of the symptoms of Vitamin overdose:
Vitamin A overdose:
Blurred vision, dizziness, ringing in the ears, headache, insomnia, irritability, apathy, stupor, skin rash, nausea, vomitting, diarrhea, hair loss, joint pain, menstrual irregularities, fatigue, liver damage, abnormal bone growth, damage to the nervous system
D vitamin overdose:
Calcium deposits, deafness, nausea, fatigue, headache, loss of appetite, kidney stones, weak bones, hypertension, high cholesterol
E vitamin overdose:
Pulmonary embolism, hypertension, muscular weakness, severe fatigue, breast tenderness, slow wound healing
Niacin vitamin overdose:
Acute flushing, peptic ulcers, liver dysfunction, gout, faintness, dizziness, tingling of fingertips, arrythmias, hyperglycemia
B6 vitamin overdose:
Problems with sense of position and vibration, reduced tendon reflexes, numbness in hands and feet, problems walking, problems with memory, depression, headache and tiredness
C vitamin overdose:
Taking megadoses for too long may lead to scurvy when megadoses are discontinued, kidney stones, hot flashes, headache, insommnia and tiredness.
Depresses nerve function, can cause drowsiness, calcium deposits, and kidney stones
Damages liver, heart, and pancreas
Fixed facial expression, difficulty walking, slurred speech, hand tremor, involuntary laughter
Goiter, heart damage
Selenium overdose: Nausea, vomitting, fatigue, irritability, loss of fingernails and toenails (4)
Chromium Picolinate: Bleeding in the digestive tract, liver damage, kidney damage, confusion or problems thinking or concentrating, anemia, sleep disturbances, skin rashes, loss of appetite. (5.)
Magnesium: Muscle weakness and fatigue, diarrhea, hypotension or low blood pressure, decreased reflexes or neuromuscular depression, slurred speech, low pulse and cardiac arrythmias (6.)
Potassium: palpitations, stomach craps, diarrhea, muscle spasms, slow, weak pulse, irritability, anxiety, tiredness, heart failure (7.)
St. Jon's Wort: Confusion, hallucinations, tachycardia, feeling faint, fever, sweating, muscle spasms, difficulty walking, diarrhea (8.)
- Iodine: Abdominal pain, metallic taste, pain in throat and mouth, shortness of breath, seizures, Hypo and Hyperthyroidism, (9,12)
Vitamins and Supplements are NOT regulated by the FDA
Often, we may buy over the counter supplements which promise to heal, or cure certain diseases, like Iodine, and kelp, and what we don't understand is that they can basically add whatever they want to them as filler. Sometimes toxins, sometimes even outright hormones and medication. A woman trying to maintain healthy blood sugars took an over the counter supplement with promises of sustaining her blood sugar levels, and in fact, the supplement messed up her Thyroid; it contained large doses of T4, and T3 -- Thyroid hormones. (10.) If you need to take a vitamin, on doctor's orders, stick to reputable and well established dealers and companies. Avoid making such purchases on the internet, where you cannot so easily hold someone accountable for their product.
If you are considering taking supplements
- Please, consider discussing it first with your doctor, and be proactive researching ALL your medical conditions for all the potential interactions. Many supplements can have also have severe interactions with medications, side effects, and even allergic reactions (such as excessive consumption of Alpha Lipoic Acid.)
- If you feel you're not getting enough vitamins, minerals, and nutrients, revisit your diet and fiber intake. Consider meeting with a registered Dietician, even if for the mere exercise of learning more about what foods can provide which vitamins and minerals to your diet, and discover creative ways to incorporate them into your system.
- If a doctor, with a complete metabolic profile, considers that you need vitamins and that you have a vitamin deficiency of a particular kind, please STICK TO YOUR DOCTOR'S INDICATIONS. Do not medicate exceeding your doctor's indications, and do not add extra vitamins to your regime that you don't need.
- ALWAYS take everything with a grain of salt. If a certain vitamin or supplement 'cured' anything, we would hear about it on the news. Do not take any vitamin or supplement to treat ANY condition without first consulting with your medical team.
Vitamins are a wonderful source of health and wealth for our bodies, and we should always strive to get the most we can through our daily diets. Some conditions, or moments in our lives, will require that we supplement those vitamins with over the counter methods, or with injections, but most of us already get what we need with a regular diet (11.), and do not need to take a constant supply of added supplements that costs us annoyance, money, and even our health. Caveat emptor.