A vitamin is an organic compound that your body
needs small amounts of but cannot make itself. This is the reason that
you have to get your vitamins through food. Some examples of vitamins
include Beta Carotene, Folate, Thiamine, Vitamin A, B3, B6, B12, C, D, E
and Vitamin K.
Of course, a healthy, balanced
diet is the foundation of good nutrition. In general, if you have a
diet that has the right balance of different types of foods,
particularly fresh fruits and vegetables, you will get most, if not all
of the vitamins you need.
If you don’t get enough of a certain type of vitamin,
you can develop a vitamin deficiency. In the past, this was more
common but can still happen today. One example is Scurvy which is a
condition produced by Vitamin C deficiency.
Since most of us don’t eat as well as we should, it is sometimes necessary to supplement our diet with vitamin pills.
There are some medical conditions
that require extra amounts of certain vitamins. One example is
pregnancy, which requires larger amounts of certain vitamins. The best
way to determine which vitamins you need is to see your doctor who will
take a detailed medical history and perform a careful physical exam to
determine which vitamins should be part of your medical regimen, either
to treat or prevent disease.
There are some blood tests for vitamin deficiencies
that may be helpful in determining if you have a vitamin deficiency or
have excess vitamins in your diet. As with all medical tests, be
cautious of any that are gimmicks or fads. Talk to your doctor about how
reliable the test is before you base any medical treatment on the
result of the test.
Since vitamins are designated as dietary supplements,
the quality and purity of them is not regulated. This means that you
should investigate each brand to make sure there are appropriate quality
controls in place ensuring that the amounts listed on the label are
accurate and that the vitamins are free of contaminants.
Though vitamins are naturally occurring substances found in plant and animal foods, getting too much of any one vitamin can be harmful. In general, vitamins are either fat soluble or water soluble. The fat soluble vitamins are stored in your body and can accumulate to toxic levels, causing significant health problems. You can even overwhelm your body’s ability to handle the water soluble vitamins. How much of a certain vitamin is necessary as well as safe should be part of your discussion with your doctor.
There are also some medical conditions
that can be worsened by vitamins. One example of this is cancer. Some
vitamins can actually feed the growth certain types of cancer. Again,
talk to your doctor about which vitamins are right for you.