The truth about vitamins

Vitamins turn urine yellow but play a very important role in helping one’s body maintain optimal health. While it is difficult to eat well in our fast paced world of processed food, vitamins help people gain the minerals that they need and are not getting from diet alone.

Dr. Kyra Gerber is a holistic chiropractor who supports her patients through discussing their daily habits around diet, exercise and emotional wellness.

Discussing dieting, Gerber says that she believes vitamins play an important role in one’s health. “The preference would always be to get nutrients from food directly,” Gerber says. “But because of how food is processed with chemicals like pesticides, hormones and antibiotics; we cannot get everything we need from a healthy diet alone.”

“The benefits of taking vitamins… are that our bodies have the needed building blocks for the repair and rejuvenation of the body’s cells and tissues,” Gerber adds. “If the precursors of hormones that are needed in stress reactions, for example, are not there enough to meet the demand, then the body suffers.”

While students may have trouble trying to uncover what vitamins they should consider taking, Doug Cook, a registered dietician and nutritionist provided some suggestions. He recommends taking a multivitamin, and a vitamin D tablet. Cook notes that ninety percent of Canadians do get enough vitamin D.

“It’s not really in our diets,” Cook said.

Dr. Gerber has similar suggestions. In general, she recommends a high quality multivitamin to all of her patients. According to Dr. Gerber, a multivitamin will, “include B vitamins which are important for the physiology of dealing with stress [which] university students can relate to; antioxidants for cancer prevention, and minerals and trace minerals for many cellular functions.”

According to Dr. Gerber, the other “missing ingredient” from our diets is an essential fatty acid called omega 3.

“There is a lot of evidence that we are out of balance with our omegas. We get too much omega 6 and not enough omega 3,” Gerber says. “The best food source for omega 3 is fish or wild game. Most people do not consume enough of these foods or there may be concerns with other contaminants like Mercury or PCBs. Therefore, I recommend a pure omega 3 oil supplement which should be taken daily.”

The other supplement she recommends is a high quality probiotic. While most recently they have been associated with dancing stomachs in yogurt advertisements, probiotics are actually natural, “normal flora,” or bacteria which are found in our gastrointestinal system.

“We are not getting as much of this bacteria in the foods that we eat as a result, again, of how foods are processed,” Gerber said. “This leaves us susceptible to other imbalances like harmful bacteria overgrowth and digestion issues.”

Like Cook, Dr. Gerber highly recommends a vitamin D supplement.

“There is a vast amount of current and good research around vitamin D deficiency and the importance of raising our serum [blood] levels to a level which is protective against many diseases such as various cancers, osteoporosis and diabetes,” Gerber added. “I highly recommend vitamin D supplementation unless a patient is getting enough sun exposure to get vitamin D from this natural source.” 

When asked what students can take when under stress, Cook says that he feels comfortable recommending students to take an Omgea3 fatty acid tablet. As well, he would like students to eat well, exercise frequently, avoid caffeine (especially before bedtime), consume alcohol moderately (or not at all) and have a good network of supportive family members and friends.

In terms of vitamin dosages, Cook says to follow the directions on the bottle. Most multivitamins will recommend one per day, although more specialized multivitamins will spread the dosage, getting you to take two or three tablets per day. Cook stresses that it is important to not go beyond the recommended dose on the bottle.

When trying to determine which vitamins or supplements would help you, a dietician can help assess this by examining your intake through a food journal. There is also a test that looks at blood levels to see if supplements are necessary. Unfortunately, however, it is not covered by OHIP.

Dr. Gerber cautions that, “The nutraceutical industry is vast, confusing and not well regulated. For this reason I encourage patients to follow specific advice from a trusted source rather than going out there and trying to figure it out on their own.”

University students are often times stressed with the school work load, part time jobs and social activities,” Gerber said. “My advice to students is to always manage to wedge in daily exercise to combat this stress, eat well and to seek expert advice around vitamin and other supplementation.”

For specific questions or concerns, Laurier Brantford has a registered dietician who is available through Health Services for appointments.

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