Gone are the days when we had some good grub and played all day in the fields with red warm cheeks, waiting for mother to call us in as the sun set. Today, we all lead busy lives and all that hustle bustle is surely leaving a mark on the environment and the crops. The food we consume is contaminated by chemicals. You can buy organic food but that is going to make a hole in your wallet.
Science is a revolutionary thing and scientists have developed new methods to pave the gap between nutrition and modern times. Nutritional supplements are all the rage, and why wouldn’t they be! Living in this day and age, you must have heard about ‘supplements' unless you are living under a rock. If you are looking to try out supplements yourself or are simply intrigued by them, you are at the right place.
What are nutritional supplements?
Nutritional supplements are a secondary source of nutrients to aid in patching nutritional deficiencies, either due to poor diet or malnutrition, disease, disorders, et cetera.
What kinds of nutritional supplements are available?
Different sorts of vitamins and chemicals are available which can compensate for malnutrition and body’s needs.
What is the use of nutritional supplements?
- Vitamin A: Vitamin A or retinoic acid is essential for maintaining membranes. Children and adults need vitamin A to maintain good eyesight. Vitamin A supplements are also indicated in case someone is experiencing night blindness (poor night vision).
- Vitamin B1: Vitamin B1 is also called thiamine. Thiamine is essential for enzyme action at molecular and cellular level. Without appropriate levels of thiamine, our body would become lethargic and we would experience fatigue. People who consume a lot of alcohol are said to have a thiamine deficiency.
- Vitamin B2: Vitamin B2 is also known as riboflavin. Vitamin B2 is an antioxidant and helps detox the body by destroying harmful free radicals.
- Vitamin B3: Vitamin B3 is also called Niacin. Niacin has a very nice role in the body. It helps in DNA production, metabolism and cellular signaling processes. Vitamin B3 should be taken to prevent the 3 D’s: dermatitis, diarrhea and dementia.
- Vitamin B5: Vitamin B5 or pantothenic acid is associated with cholesterol production and hormone secretion. Furthermore, it helps in energy production from food materials.
- Vitamin B6: It is also named pyridoxine. Vitamin B6 is involved in AA metabolism, erythropoiesis (RBC production) and formation of neurotransmitters. Vitamin B6 is essential for anemics and people with psychological disorders.
- Vitamin B7: Biotin is another name for vitamin B7 and as the name indicates, it is associated with carbohydrate and fat metabolism.
- Vitamin B9: Vitamin B9 is more commonly known by folic acid or folate. This is the supplement most prescribed to pregnant women or those who desire to become pregnant. Prenatal dose of 400 micrograms can prevent neural tube defects (NTDs) and mental retardation in the developing fetus. This is due to the involvement of Folic acid in growth, amino acid metabolism, formation of both white and red blood cells. Vitamin B9 is usually given with vitamin B12 supplements. Folic acid should be taken up till the 12th week of pregnancy.
- Vitamin B12: Vitamin B12 is given with vitamin B9 before pregnancy up till the 12th week to prevent neural tube defects like spina bifida.
- Vitamin B complex: Vitamin B complex is also available to fulfil all your vitamin B needs. It has a concoction of all vitamins B1 to 12.
- Vitamin C: You must have heard about scurvy and the tales of how it left pirates in agony! Vitamin C is packed in oranges and lemons but people still become deficient. If you get scurvy, your gums would bleed and you can get an infection. Vitamin C supplements are easy to take as they taste very good.
- Vitamin D: Vitamin D is necessary for maintaining the strength of bones. Vitamin D incorporates calcium from blood into bones and make them strong. Children who do not get enough vitamin D can have rickets, leading to their legs bowing under the weight of their body. Adults can also suffer from osteomalacia or soft bones in case of vitamin D deficiency.
- Vitamin E: Vitamin E can be called a woman’s best friend. Who hasn’t had skin problems before? Who hasn’t had agonizing period pain that leaves them crippled in bed inside a blanket burrito? If not you, then congratulations! But to the rest of the 99% of the female population, talk to your doctor about vitamin E. Vitamin E has wonderful effects on skin. It can help reduce blemishes, appearance of fine lines and wrinkles. Say goodbye to effects of aging. If you are young and suffering from acne or acne scars, applying vitamin E both topically or taking it orally as a supplement can help reduce marks. This is because vitamin E is an antioxidant and gets rid of free radicals and reduces inflammation. Vitamin E is also linked to reduced period pain and a steady menstrual flow.
- Zinc: Zinc is a metal that the body needs in very small quantities. It is a micronutrient. Zinc is needed for good brain activity and hair growth. Taking Zinc supplements can be beneficial for patients of dementia, Alzheimer’s. If you are suffering from alopecia (hair loss), consider taking zinc supplements.
- Iron: You must have seen the over-the-top heroic effects Popeye’s spinach had, back when you were a kid. One swig of that can and Popeye not only beat his nemesis Brute buy also saved the damsel in distress, Olive. Well, spinach is actually high in iron levels. So, Popeye was essentially consuming lots of iron. Iron plays a huge part in our body as it not only makes the framework of red blood cells but also regulates various enzymes. Good circulation and ample oxygenation helps maintain health.
- Calcium: Calcium is one of the first nutrients kids learn about, apart from iron. The reason calcium is so important is that it holds the framework of our body – the skeleton! All our bones and teeth need calcium it stay strong. Those who do not drink enough milk can have weak bones because of calcium deficiency. Calcium supplements are required to keep bones strong.
Who can prescribe nutritional supplements?
Your doctor can prescribe you with dietary supplements in case you are lacking any vitamins.
Can nutritional supplements be taken without a prescription?
Nutritional supplements must be taken only under a doctor’s prescription. Do not self-diagnose based on rough knowledge from an article on the internet or the newspaper. Always consult with your doctor. Nutritional supplements must be taken in specific doses. In case of overdose, there can be serious health consequences.
Can nutritional supplements have any side effects?
Yes, nutritional supplements are meant to be taken in minute quantities. If the balance is disturbed or if taken unchecked, they can wreak havoc in the body and cause various side effects, like:
- Liver toxicity
- Kidney failure
- Harm to fetus in pregnant mothers
- Reduced bone strength
- Heart problems
- Kidney stones
- Vitaminosis (eg Vitaminosis A can cause headaches and liver damage, reduce bone strength, and cause birth defects).
Can nutritional supplements interact with other drugs?
Dietary supplements can also interact with certain drugs which can have harmful effects. Some examples include:
- Vitamin K can dampen the effects of Coumadin, a blood thinner that prevents blood from clotting.
- St. John’s Wort can reduce the effectiveness of oral contraceptives (OCPs) and painkillers.
- Antioxidant supplements, like vitamins C and E, might reduce the effectiveness of some types of cancer chemotherapy.