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Vitamins & Supplements

I'd like to hear you guys' thoughts on vitamins and supplements. I've been thinking about them quite a bit lately, and it seemed like a timely topic when I saw this story on “Dangerous Supplements”. Now, I'll be honest – I prefer to go herbal as much as possible, avoid all medications unless I really need them, and I don't particularly trust the FDA when it comes to pushing medicines and down-talking herbs & vitamins. Color me jaded. Then again, I really don't know a lot about the different vitamins and supplements. I am woefully ignorant, but I've decided to learn.

Anyway, since I recently got this new job that often includes stocking, I find my nails have started breaking quite a lot as I open boxes and lift heavy things. Add this to the fact that my hair has been falling out a lot more in the last year or two, and I decided to splurge on a “Hair, nail, & skin” supplement. It's mostly calcium, with a nice dose of other things I can't pronounce and some vitamin A, D, etc. thrown in. I've felt my age upon me lately, especially with my now-trick knee, and I seem to be getting sick far too often, so I'm wondering what other vitamins might be good for me. I make myself sound decrepit here, but I'm still only 29. Just thinking maintenance, especially since my family has a history of heart disease and cancer.

I plan on maybe taking more vitamin C or echinacea for my immune system, and folic acid since we do plan on TTC in the future. Perhaps fish oil or omega acids, since I eat a lot less fish since Josh and I got together (he got food poisoning once as a kid and can't even stand to smell it cooking). I plan on reading and learning more about nutrition and making sure that we eat healthier and that I get more water, etc. I'm a blank slate on this subject though, so I have some substantial reading to do.

So I thought I'd start here. Do you agree with taking supplements? If you do, what kinds do you take? What do you avoid? Do you give any to your children? Do you have any good resources to recommend?

Thanks for sharing your thoughts on this with me!



( 23 comments — Leave a comment )
Aug. 5th, 2010 12:50 am (UTC)
I'm on iron tablets at the moment (I'm anaemic) and was taking a pregnancy multivit until I ran out. My son has been on some seriously hard core supplements to help with his autism. He's had blood tests which show he's seriously zinc deficient and he does have a few other issues as well, so he's been on specialist, high strength supplements which have really, REALLY helped. What we found tended to happen was that he'd show improvement and then plateau. We'd go back to the doc (a registered GP who specialises in dealing with autism via nutrition), who'd tweak it and we'd see improvement again and so on. Right now, all he's on is iodine and cod liver oil partly because we ran out of money but partly because he seems fine for the most part. Few people realise that he's autistic when they meet him now unless they're told.

For the most part, I think supplements are unnecessary. If you're having a decent diet, you should be getting all the nutrients you need from that and I think a lot of the stuff you read about what you "need" is overhyped and aimed at selling you things you don't actually need at all. At the moment, it's pretty fashionable to be dairy and gluten free (which my children are) but realistically, unless you actually have a genuine issue with those substances, you're not necessarily making your diet healthier by cutting them out - quite the opposite in fact.

It does sound like you could do with a good boost of calcium and that's pretty much how I deal with things - if I notice an issue (e.g. overly hormonal), I'll bump up with the appropriate supplement from a reputable supplier. I tend to consult qualified herbalists though rather than turning to the net or books - my giveaway test is Raspberry Leaf. If someone reckons it's safe for pregnancy without mentioning the contraindications, then I don't trust their opinion on anything else. I don't take supplements on an ongoing basis though - it shouldn't be necessary.

Everything in moderation. A good mix of the food groups and little to zero junk food. There really isn't anything more mystical to nutrition than that, it's just that there's a lot of money to be made, which is why there's a whole industry around the subject of food and supplements telling you that it's more complicated and if you just buy *this* product...
Aug. 5th, 2010 01:14 am (UTC)
Thanks for sharing! At least it sounds like supplements can definitely work if used properly.

Sadly, I don't have a decent diet. I eat about once a day (dinner) and drink pepsis all day. Trying to change that though.
Aug. 5th, 2010 01:27 am (UTC)
There's half your problem right there!

Supplements are no substitute for a decent diet. That's why they're called supplements. So really you should be viewing them as a short term stop gap as you look to get yourself into the habit of three meals a day and weaning yourself off pepsis as your sole drink. I mean, I drink Coke, but I also drink a lot of water as well. And I'll have a chocolate bar, but I also have fruit and veg. I'm really bad at remembering to eat (although when you're pregnant, your body has a tendency to shout at you if you don't!) but I do anyway, because it's not just low energy that's a problem as a result, it's mood swings and being utterly miserable with nothing in the tank.
Aug. 5th, 2010 01:32 am (UTC)
I know my diet is sadly lacking lately. I'd been doing really well with my water drinking until I started working again. I always seem to drink more sodas in the heat of summer, but I'd been exercising and working in the garden and topping that off with lots of water. Since that's stopped, so has the water drinking.

I'm never hungry during the day. I had a goal to eat breakfast every day, but I just can't seem to stomach eating so early in the morning. I'll have a snack every now and then, but usually I just eat a big dinner. I am trying to improve that. At least I can afford food a bit easier now that I'm working. For a while there, it was simply a case of wanting the girls to have what good food we did have in the house.
Aug. 5th, 2010 02:46 am (UTC)
I'm not big on breakfast. I'll happily not have it. And I found that when I did have it, it made me hungrier. These days, I tend to just have a banana. It might not be much, but it's enough to keep me going until I feel like something more substantial mid morning (I'm just not a morning person, so the thought of food first thing turns my stomach and I don't generally wake up until about 10, even if I'm physically up). A big dinner last thing is about the most unhealthy thing that you can do, so it really isn't any wonder that you're feeling like you need to change your diet and I would caution you against turning to supplements because that's just encouraging further bad habits because you can kid yourself you're getting the nutrients you need from a pill.

I do know where you're coming from with wanting your children to have good food even if you don't. I have a similar mindset - the children get the pick of the fruit and in my head, that's for them and not for the grown ups, even though actually it's for everyone. I don't feel hungry during the day much either - I can easily go until 4 and then realise that I really should have eaten earlier. But it isn't healthy. And I think you'll find that if you force your body into better habits, you'll quickly settle into a routine. It isn't *that* expensive to eat healthily - in fact, when I was in the UK, it was actually cheaper to eat healthily than unhealthily. The problem is that a lot of people don't like to prepare food from scratch whereas that's pretty much all we do (although I suspect that you do cook properly). But, for example, a tin of tomatoes with a couple of chopped veggies and herbs on top of pasta is quick, easy and more nutritious than a burger bought from a fast food joint and per head costs a lot less (at least in NZ).
Aug. 5th, 2010 02:56 am (UTC)
Sadly, in the US, it's cheaper to eat crap. You can get a hamburger for a dollar, 2 liter of soda for 89 cents, a bag of chips for the same, while broccoli is 2.50/pound, milk is $4 a gallon, and nuts are $5 a (small) jar. God help you if you want to eat organic! Most of our food budget goes to fresh veggies, which is partly why I'm so determined to grow most of ours!

We usually eat well when we do cook meals. Josh gives the girls too much ramen or hotdogs for my taste, but it's what they beg for. But anyways, yeah, I'm definitely working on improving mine & Josh's eating habits.
Aug. 5th, 2010 12:55 am (UTC)
I sometimes take a calcium supplement, fish oil, and or vitamin C - I can;t take a pill everyday to save my life so these get taken when I think about it... about 4 times in a month.

I prefer to stick to things that have scientific backing since I know how powerful a lot of herbs can be (that's where they get so many commercial medicines after all) and I shy away from anything that is fat soluble mainly because you can OD on that (water soluble stuff like vitamin C will at worst give you the runs).

For the most part though, I try to eat as many fruits and veggies a day as I can and avoid processed foods as much as possible.
Aug. 5th, 2010 01:15 am (UTC)
I can't seem to remember to take them daily either. I'm still working on getting into a routine with that.

I didn't know about fat or water soluble vitamins, so I'll definitely have to read more about that. Thanks!
Aug. 5th, 2010 03:06 am (UTC)
The main difference between fat and water soluble vitamins is that you can pass one kind and not the other. Vitamin C, for example, is water soluble, meaning that when you've had enough of it you pee the rest out. It's not a big deal to eat 1000% of your daily value of vitamin C, because your body passes 900% of it.

Other vitamins, however, can build up in your system and do damage if you OD. Example--babies who get too much vitamin A (which is in orange and red fruits and veggies; yams, carrots, bell peppers, etc.) can get a jaundiced look to their skin because they'll actually start to look, well, orange. :)
Aug. 5th, 2010 03:08 am (UTC)
Thanks! I totally get that. My mom was a baby carrot nut. She ate so many of them that her hands started turning orange, so she cut back. Slightly. Ha!
Aug. 5th, 2010 12:46 pm (UTC)
When i'm being good...
I take a daily multivitamin - "just in case"
Calcium/Magnesium - since I have weak teeth and don't do any serious resistance workouts
B complex - because I tested borderline low my last blood workup and that can cause anemia
Fish oil - I cut this out bc I stopped eating fish, I need to get a vegetarian omega to replace it.
I'd like to add a D supplement because it seems to be the latest WOW thing

I generally feel much better when I am taking all of my vitamins consistently. I try to take the calcium in the evening, but sometimes I take them all in the morning. The B complex helps a lot with energy and fighting depression :-)

That being said, I'm REALLY bad about taking them. I got out of cycle on my vacation and haven't gotten back on since.

You drink soda pop, don't you? If you do, the one thing that I can definitely say you should be taking is calcium/magnesium supplement. The phosphoric acid in soda leaches minerals from your bones.
Aug. 5th, 2010 07:08 pm (UTC)
Re: When i'm being good...
I seem to be REALLY bad about taking them too. And yeah, I'm a pepsi addict. I try so hard to quit, and sometimes I do well, but most the time I fall off the wagon. I need to get it under control though. My teeth are really suffering. I knew I probably needed more calcium than I get, but I hadn't even thought about magnesium. I'll have to look into that. And B complex. Not too familiar with that either.
Aug. 5th, 2010 09:37 pm (UTC)
Re: When i'm being good...
I'm pretty bad with the sodas, too. I'm getting better, but I do love me some Dr. Pepper & Pepsi & Mountain Dew & Coke............

With Calcium, it's good to take it with magnesium & maybe a banana too (for potassium) I forget what it is, but when they get out of balance, bad things are supposed to happen.

The B complex might not be so important to you since you're an omni, but B vitamins help with iron absorption, which is why it's linked with anemia. But they are one of those great things that you're not gonna OD on and do give you energy, so it's something worth looking at :-)
Aug. 5th, 2010 09:41 pm (UTC)
Re: When i'm being good...
Thanks! If only I could get some insurance soon, I'd be able to have a doc test me and tell me what I need. :/ Soon, I hope!
Aug. 6th, 2010 12:14 am (UTC)
Re: When i'm being good...
If you feel like tracking your nutrients on your own, sparkpeople.com has a nutrition tracker on their website. It automatically tracks things like sugars, fat, protein and calories. But you can customize it to track other stuff to see what you're eating or not eating :-)
Aug. 6th, 2010 12:27 am (UTC)
Re: When i'm being good...
Hm, I may have to check it out. I'd joined up on two health/diet pages before, but I was never really good with keeping up with it and inputting info.
Aug. 6th, 2010 01:00 am (UTC)
Re: When i'm being good...
Hahhaha I'm not either. But that's basically because inputting the info makes me feel really bad unless I'm on an upswing ;-P
Aug. 5th, 2010 03:15 pm (UTC)
In my experience, we just do one Centrum multivitamin a day here. supps don't get cpvered under health care and it is always the money issue. To spend or not to spend. Be careful about taking supps that might either thicken or thin the blood. Risks of clots one way or hemmorages the other. Also be sure to check out cbos of supps and any type of smoking product.
Fish oil and colic acid seem pretty ok. Oh if you are on any hormonal form of birth control, check out interactions too. AW
Aug. 5th, 2010 07:11 pm (UTC)
I think I had a women's multivitamin for a while, but I never remembered to take them. I should look around and see if I still have those. I'll also be sure to check about how it affects the blood. Thanks for that tip! Hopefully it's easy info to find.

I'm not on any hormonal bc, so that shouldn't be a problem. I'm sporting a copper IUD for now. I'm hoping I can be done with bc entirely once this comes out, but we'll see.
Aug. 5th, 2010 06:52 pm (UTC)
vitamin d. vitamin d. vitamin d. vitamin d.
Aug. 5th, 2010 07:11 pm (UTC)
Thanks - will do!
Aug. 6th, 2010 12:06 pm (UTC)
From the way you're eating, you're probably B-vitamin deficient. B vitamins are necessary for healthy hair and nails, and they're also needed to process sugar--with the amount of soda you're drinking, and the amount of nutritious food you're not eating, I imagine you're probably pretty deficient. They're also water-soluble and not actually stored in the body, so they need to be replaced regularly.

Minerals are also really important, and you're not getting much of them with the way you're eating. Really, that's the first thing I think you ought to change. If you can't handle food early in the morning, can you try a protein shake? Maybe that would let you ease into being able to eat food in the morning again and jump-starting your metabolism, and there are shakes that are vitamin-fortified. Normally, I'm not really a proponent of that sort of thing, but you're likely to do some damage to your body if you continue as you are. Your nails breaking are a symptom, not the problem.
Aug. 6th, 2010 01:39 pm (UTC)
Thanks, hon! I've definitely realized that. At least the food I do eat is mostly healthy. (I have a chips & salsa or cheese dip infatuation lately...) I just don't eat til 5 or 6 in the evening.

I'm not a big protein shake fan, or at least not the stuff we tried while Josh & I were trying Body for Life. Myoplex, or something like that? I do like some of the slim fasts all right. Maybe I should go back to trying those before work or something.

Our dinners are usually chock full of veggies, and I tend to eat a lot of vegetables or salads. I'm not so much of a fruit person though. But, yeah, I will work on fixing my eating habits, and I'll also look into some vitamin D, B, & probably fish oil, I think.
( 23 comments — Leave a comment )


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