What are vitamin supplements?
Vitamin supplements can be an important component of holistic care. People who limit their intake of high fat and salt foods, while increasing fresh fruits and vegetables, find that these dietary changes improve their sense of well-being. Many allopathic and naturopathic physicians recommend healthy eating as well as vitamin and mineral supplementation. These therapies are used for health maintenance and disease prevention. Some vitamin and mineral treatments are also used for specific deficiencies.
The different types of vitamins
Below is an overview of some of the most common vitamins incorporated into holistic care.
The B-vitamins are coenzymes involved in energy production throughout your body. They are important factors in the metabolism of carbohydrates, fats, and proteins. This group of vitamins is essential for normal nervous system functioning and helps people who suffer from stress and lethargy. B-vitamins also promote healthy relaxation and increased energy levels. Elderly patients have decreased absorption of B-vitamins from their gut. Supplementation of these vitamins can be extremely helpful. The B-vitamins are usually best taken together, but can be taken individually for certain deficiencies.
Thiamine plays a part in carbohydrate metabolism and proper nerve functioning. Thiamine supplements can increase energy levels and may play a role in memory formation. Thiamine deficiency is commonly seen in people with nutritional deficiencies and may present with generalized muscle weakness and confusion.
Riboflavin is important for your body’s production of energy. Taking supplementation is associated with increased energy levels, improved concentration, and mood stability.
Niacin is essential for many processes throughout the body. It lowers cholesterol and triglyceride levels as well as improving blood circulation. A niacin deficiency can produce a syndrome termed “pellagra” which manifests as a skin rash, dementia, and diarrhea.
A commonly used vitamin in the treatment of depression, Vitamin B6 is eventually made into serotonin. Tryptophan is the chemical that vitamin B6 is broken down into before becoming serotonin. Tryptophan is naturally found in many foods including turkey. Nutritional counseling is very important in patients with depression because the types of food you eat may contribute to your mood. Pyridoxine has also been shown to boost the immune system and provide some arthritis relief. Vitamin B6 is also an essential component in hemoglobin synthesis and red blood cell growth. A severe deficiency or an excess of B6 can cause irreversible nerve damage with symptoms that include numbness of feet and hands, unsteady gait, and impaired reflexes.
B8 (Folic Acid)
Folic acid is necessary in the prevention of neural tube birth defects. It acts as a component in DNA synthesis and nervous system maintenance. Folic acid supplementation may also decrease the risk of cardiovascular disease.
Vitamin B12 deficiency is a common occurrence. It typically presents with neuropathies (nerve-related pain) and mental status changes. B12 is important for metabolism of proteins, fats, and carbohydrates. Vitamin B12 can improve memory, concentration, and energy. There is also evidence that B12 may reduce the risk of heart disease.
Fat Soluble Vitamins (KADE)
Vitamin K is involved in both blood clotting and bone metabolism. Some blood-thinning agents (Coumadin) are used to block the effects of vitamin K on normal coagulation.
Vitamin A plays a part in healthy vision, skin health (used for cosmetic purposes), acne treatment, and works with the immune system to prevent infection. Vitamin A has also been used as an anti-aging and anti-cancer supplement.
Vitamin D is essential for the body to effectively absorb dietary calcium. It helps the body deposit calcium in bones and teeth. Vitamin D supplementation may prevent osteoporosis by increasing bone strength. It also has a role in treating the skin disorder psoriasis.
Vitamin E is one of the body’s strongest antioxidants. Vitamin E protects cell membranes from damage produced by free radicals. Vitamin E has also been shown to be beneficial in the prevention of heart disease and may reduce the risk of heart attack. The antioxidant effects may help improve the immune system, assist in wound healing, and may reduce the risk of cancer.
Vitamin C is a powerful antioxidant useful in treating infections, increasing immunity, and improving wound healing by increasing collagen formation. Vitamin C may also protect against the effects of stress and help to prevent cancer.
Calcium is essential in the formation and maintenance of your bones. Calcium is also involved in blood clotting, nerve transmission, and muscle contraction. Recent research is showing that calcium may play an important role in blood pressure reduction, as well as reducing the risk of colon cancer.
Flax seed oil is rich in linolenic acid, which is frequently deficient in our diets. These essential fatty acids are important because they maintain cell wall and membrane integrity. They also may increase energy production and help regulate the consumption of cholesterol and triglycerides. The benefits of flaxseed oil may be due to the presence of lignans within the flaxseed. These compounds have various pro- and anti-estrogenic properties. Flaxseed oil may also reduce cholesterol and blood pressure, thereby decreasing the risk of stroke and heart attack. It also may improve the symptoms of inflammatory conditions (eczema and psoriasis) and reduce the risk of cancer.