6 Myths About Vitamins Experts Want You to Stop Believing - Women's Health

6 Myths About Vitamins Experts Want You to Stop Believing

So you're not stuck popping all sorts of random stuff.

Supplements. Their claims are really all over the place: we’re constantly bombarded with sources telling us different things about how to hit all your recommended vitamins levels.

Here, we untangle the web of misinformation and confusing facts. 

Vitamin D – All you need is the sun

The idea that you naturally absorb all your vitamin D from walking around in the sun through out the day, is one of the most widely spread vitamin ‘facts out there’. However getting enough sun can actually be more difficult to achieve than you think.

In order to achieve the recommended vitamin D levels (10-20 micrograms daily), you must expose yourself to 30 minutes of sun, several times a week. Some people with darker skin might even need up to 3 hours sun exposure. This is a lot more than an occasional stint outdoors. 

However there are also damaging effects the sun can have on our skin, so incorporating oily fish such as tuna or salmon, and egg yolk into your diet can help hit your vitamin D intake. Some breakfast cereals such as Special K have 25% of your daily recommendation of Vitamin D in one serve. Even spending time in the sun at less harmful times, such as on your way to and and from work when the UV levels are lower. 

How to tell you’re lacking vitamin D? If you are feeling fatigue, bone pain, muscle weakness, muscle aches, or mood changes then this might be a sign of vitamin D deficiency. If this is the case, then a good quality vitamin D3 supplement might be a better option for your lifestyle with less worry. 

Gut health – you need more than just probiotics  

Supplements alone will not keep our gut healthy and regular. The most critical nutrient for intestinal health is dietary fibre from plant foods, not supplements. Fibre helps us to eliminate toxins from our body, and it helps control blood glucose and cholesterol levels. It also helps keep our gut microbiota healthy.

Prebiotic fibre also helps to nourish the bacteria in the gut, which helps the skin, mood, energy, and immune system. With gut health being the biggest health fad now, there are many supplements out there, however most cost over $100. This just isn’t possible for most people, nor is it even the best option in my opinion.

Research from Kellogg’s shows more than half of Australians (52%) are unaware that prebiotic fibres are found in breakfast cereals and whole grains. And that gut primers, kombucha, prebiotic and probiotic pills can be replaced by pantry staples such as  All-Bran flakes, whole grain bread, legumes, vegetables, and fruits.

Vitamin C – Orange, oranges, and more oranges

People often reach for an orange to boost their immunity when the first symptoms of the flu show. However, oranges are not the only source of vitamin C. They do contain some vitamin C, but many other healthy foods options that have even greater levels vitamin C.

100g of oranges provide roughly 60mg of vitamin C, whereas thyme, chili peppers, guavas, and capsicums all have 100mg or more. You don’t need to give up oranges, but this shows there are other ways to get your vitamin C that are more efficient. 

Bloody gums, bruises, feeling weak, and rashes are symptoms of vitamin C deficiency. You can visit a doctor if you have these signs to see exactly what is going on.

Vitamin Supplements – ‘The more the merrier’

If you eat a balanced, healthy diet, you should be able to get all the vitamins you need. Some nutrients such as iron, calcium and Vitamin D may need to be supplemented in some population groups and some people may need  extra supplements. Its important to rememeber that too much can also be as detrimental as not enough. Excessive vitamin A, for example, can cause toxicity in the blood and nausea which can be harmful during pregnancy. Excessive vitamin B6 has been found to produce a loss of feeling in your limbs and cause nerve damage. This isn’t something you want to play around with or risk!

Before choosing supplements, it’s imperative that you see your doctor or nutritionist who can prescribe a recommended dose for your body. Once on supplements, see it as that, a supplement and not a substitute to foods. 

Medication and vitamin supplements work together 

Simply put, no. Your medication and vitamin supplements won’t just mind their own business and do their own thing in your body. A lot of supplements will change the way your body absorbs and  metabolise your medication. For example, taking supplements for Coenzyme Q10 can affect absorption of Warfarin (a blood thinner).

It is vital that you speak to your doctor when adding or stopping medication and supplements. Unless you are a doctor, it’s impossible to know and remember all the different ways certain medication and supplements affect each other and your body. 

Supplements take AGES to work

Some supplements can take 90 days to work, while others take only a few days. Different supplements have different timelines for when you can expect to see benefits and particular bodies will also absorb at different rates. How deficient in the particular vitamin you are, and the dosage you take will also affect how quickly you will start to see results.  There is no set timeline as to when your supplements will begin to work. However, if you start to experience negative symptoms at any point after taking them, or don’t notice any changes after 90 days, see your doctor to discuss other options or dosages. 

Geraldine Georgeou

By Geraldine Georgeou

Practising Dietitian with over 20 years’ in the industry. Gaining experience from Prince of Wales Hospital, Geraldine has contributed to helping the Australian Navy, consulting to Diabetes Australia and the GI Motility Disorders Unit and being a familiar face in the media. Geraldine has been a Gastroenterology Dietitian at The Prince of Wales Hospital in Sydney — and a Member of the Council for the Gut Foundation at The Prince of Wales Hospital and author of “The Gut Foundation Cook book”. She is also the author of The Australian Healthy Skin Diet released March 31st, 2020 in Australia and 12th May, 2020 in the United Kingdom. Her expertise in clinical dietetics and nutrition has helped a vast majority of people who have suffered from metabolic and gastrointestinal health issues together with dermatology, rheumatology and disease prevention and management such as Type 2 diabetes, arthritis, skin health and heart disease.

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