Do We All Really Need Supplements or Multivitamins?

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

  • learn the signs of a vitamin overdoseB6 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.

  • Calcium overdose:
    Depresses nerve function, can cause drowsiness, calcium deposits, and kidney stones

  • Iron overdose:
    Damages liver, heart, and pancreas

  • Zinc overdose:
    Fixed facial expression, difficulty walking, slurred speech, hand tremor, involuntary laughter

  • Cobalt overdose:
    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

  1. 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.)
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.

Footnotes:

1. http://www.diabeteshealth.com/read/1999/09/01/1630/high-doses-of-vitamin-c-supplement-increase-blood-glucose-levels/
2.http://www.wjgnet.com/1007-9327/15/5674.asp
3.http://www.medindia.net/news/Excess-Niacin-Intake-Linked-to-Obesity-Risk-69162-1.htm
4.http://www.vitaminstohealth.com/vitamin-overdose.html
5.http://www.buzzle.com/articles/chromium-picolinate-dosage.html
6.http://www.buzzle.com/articles/magnesium-overdose.html
7.http://www.highbloodpressureinfo.org/potassium-overdose.html
8.http://depression.emedtv.com/st.-john's-wort/st.-john's-wort-overdose.html
9.http://www.buzzle.com/articles/iodine-overdose.html
10.http://www.tudiabetes.org/group/hypothyroiddiabetics/forum/topics/let-the-buyer-beware-another
11.http://www.healthunit.org/nutrition/foodsecurity/vitamin.htm
12.http://www.tudiabetes.org/group/hypothyroiddiabetics/forum/topics/iodineinduced-hyperthyroidism





Hey Liz
We were actually having a discussion in the forum about the use of supplements as part of the natural diabetes treatment as related to a Newyork times from last week. The article highlighted the danger of supplements containing dangerous levels of contaminants.
It was interesting to me how we all use supplements as part of our daily self management practices and no one was deterred from using them even with a threat of contamination.
You touched at it that most of the added advantages found in supplements can easily be replicated in our diets. The whole premise of supplements however is the notion of taking a pill to replace what was missing in the diet. and yes its reached convoluted levels, now supplements are touted as cures for everything that ails us, packaged and presented to us as a natural alternative to pharmaceuticals and their dangerous side effects. but these very supplements contain harmful ingredients which sometimes are not even included in the product labeling and marketing.
Am not an alarmist and this does not mean I have sworn off my omega 3 fish oil and multivitamin, but it did give me a moment of pause.

The discussion in the forum is here
The Newyork times article is here Study Finds Supplements Contain Contaminants
I wrote a follow up blog post on the natural diabetes treatment on my blod too.

Yes, The Poor Diabetic… As you can see, I have specifically mentioned how we should take vitamins and supplements if we have a deficiency, and one that our doctors can highlight with a metabolic profile examination. I was not, in any way, referring to YOU as an alarmist, but there are many alarmists in the market right now, such as Dr. Mercola, and others. The blog post is not in direct response to your discussion, but on the many times the topic has been brought up, and how much I have learned in researching the topic myself, in considering if I should take any supplementation. If you have low HDL, by all means… take your Omega 3’s. :slight_smile:

Being a 20 year veg, I have been into vitamins for sometime and as you post says often we take things we don’t need. Based on the food I eat (or have in the past) I can pretty much know what I am defiantely not getting and probably am deficient in. But I have researching this stuff for 20 years - for many vegs you kind of get into the health thing whether you are really interested in or not. Protein was the big worry before - not as much any more.

I never took Omega-3 into consideration until I found out I had cervical dysplesia and read some stuff about it and started making sure I got some ground flaxseed every day. I just started this recently. Obviously I was deficient. Same thing with B12 - pretty much only found in organ meats. But it takes a veg 20 years to be become actually deficient in this - well, I am at my 20 yr mark and now taking the Metformin - which I have read several times can cause B12 deficiency so I am definatley in need of that! I started taking it a month ago (and it actually helps with my energy level!).

I also recenly started taking a D3 being vegan and living in the north - I am probably quite deficient in that.

I will say this about a few of the over doses. You can not overdose on NATURAL Vitamin D - meaning too much sun and your body creates the D from that. You are correct that you could have an overdosage of synthetic vitamin D - probably more for the toxic buildup of the synthetic vitamin and probably so from products that are enriched with Vitamin D.

In reference to the Vitamin D and calicum overdose, I will say that when I was a dairy eater (and I ate ALOT of it). I had calicum deposits on my nails and I lost half of my hearing. When I went vegan, those calicum deposits went away. My hearing was never restored so I can’t say much about that. But I can vouch for the changes in one body when you give up those enriched Vitamin D products. And to me I get my calcium by choosing green that have high calicum and the almond milk. Calicum deposits haven’t returned.:slight_smile:

For the Vitamin A overdose, that is interesting because I have ringing in my one ear. The doctor said it is from my hearing loss (happen around the same time) but if that is true I should have it in both ears as the loss in equal in both. Although I don’t think I was eating a lot of things with Vitamin A at the time or taking a vitamin (although I was probably defiicent it!), I did take Accutane (which is a high dosage of synthetic Vitamin A) a few years before the ringing started. It makes me wonder if things like that cause permanent damage. It is a big mystery - I may never figure out how I got it (doctor don’t know how people get it) or ever get rid of it.

But still lets not forget that deficiencies of these can cause some of the same problems too so it can be difficult to track down which is which.

Well, I take quite a few supplements. I have reasons for all of those supplements. I discuss the supplements with my doctor. In several instances, the supplements fight key deficiencies I have, such as vitamin D. I have not been generally successful with getting tested for things like B12 levels. In some areas my deficiencies are obvious (such as my electrolytes).

And while one must take care not to overdo things like with vitamin A, most supplements do not harm you in reasonable quantities. You may waste your money in some circumstances, but if you cannot test levels, sometimes it is just prudent to make sure you are getting enough. In the case of R-ALA and biotin, I take those at the suggestion of a number of authorities for my neuropathy, but I don’t know my levels and I really have a hard time knowing if it helps. In the case of fish oil, I take a serious mega-dose, and in fact fish oil gelcaps are much safer than eating a corresponding amount of fish. I would expose myself to high levels of mercury getting that level of Omega-3.

On the other side, I have tried and stopped a whole range of supplements, from Chromium to Bitter Mellon. I don’t think you should take supplements without understanding what they are, what they do, what are safe levels and where you are getting them from. I do think one should be informed and prudent in their use of supplements.

But we should say that about our food supply. How often do you make sure you wash your food? You do know of course that the vast majority is contaiminated? In most cases, even a thorough washing will not remove everything. And I already mentioned mercury.

I do think it is good to be informed about supplements, review them with your doctor and to make appropriate decisions. But my experience has been that my doctors “refuse” to test for proper levels (such as vit D and B-12) and they don’t usually prescibe supplements and when they do, they are totally incompetent (such as prescribing vit D2 instead of vit D3).

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A real eye opener for me was a hair analysis test I had done. It’s more accurate than blood work and explained alot of why I was feeling the way I have for some time now. For vitamins I would highly recommend taking organic vitamins and also do the reasearch of where they are grown, how long they are stored (especially vit c) and they should have an expiry date. Just some thoughts.