The Difference Between Vitamins and Supplements | 1MD

The Difference Between Vitamins and Supplements

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As a child, we quickly learn the basic food groups and our parents and teachers teach us to eat balanced meals, whether we want to or not. As we grow older, it is up to ourselves to make responsible decisions regarding nutrition to decrease the risk of serious health problems.

When considering which vitamins or supplements you should take, the answer is usually found in the doctor's office. In order to know for sure what you might be lacking in substance, you would need to take a blood test.

The results of the blood test will determine if you are suffering from a vitamin or mineral deficiency.

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When looking into vitamins and supplements, it's easy to get confused as to which is which. A vitamin is defined as a natural substance usually found in food that helps your body be healthy.

A dietary supplement is defined as a product taken orally that contains one or more ingredients, such as vitamins or amino acids, that are intended to supplement one's diet and are not considered food. With that in mind, it is important to understand what your body needs to function at optimal efficiency.

Which vitamins should I take?

Vitamins can be consumed in a variety of forms, including liquids, powders, pills, gummies, etc. Different forms are absorbed by the body in different rates.

Depending on your body, diet, and routine, one type may be more effective for you than another. To ensure that you are not consuming too much or too little of a certain vitamin, you should always check with your physician.

It's important to ask your doctor to make sure you are taking the vitamins that suit your need in the appropriate dosage. Fat-soluble vitamins such as A, D, and E are not excreted in urine the way water-soluble vitamins are, so taking too much of them can be dangerous.

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In most cases with vitamins, you are probably getting enough already if you have a reasonably healthy diet. Or, as with vitamin D, you might just need to get more sunshine.

Which supplements should I take?

Multivitamins are supplements that come in many forms, and can be targeted toward different people dealing with different medical issues. Centrum is a line that specializes in multivitamins, including those that target seniors over the age of 60.

Prenatal vitamins are supplements that women take when they are expecting a child. These tend to come with more iron and specific nutrients that pregnant woman may lack and will need for a healthy pregnancy.

There are also supplements for weight loss, hair, skin, nails, and even your microbiome (thanks to probiotics). Many of these products can contain natural and chemical ingredients, so you should be vigilant about the ingredients in anything you're consuming.

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Always check with your doctor if you have any questions or concerns.

Herbal Vitamins and Supplements

Herbal vitamins contain natural ingredients derived from plants. The herbs are a more natural way of curing ailments from stomach issues to blood pressure.

Melatonin is an herbal supplement that has been synthesized into a vitamin and found in liquid and tablet form. It helps with sleep issues and can be found in most major vitamin lines.

As with any vitamin or supplement that you consume, results vary from person, depending on the dosage consumed.

One of the most popular and effective supplements currently is one containing omega-3 fatty acids, such as krill oil and fish oil. While not vitamins, omega-3 fatty acids are essential to the health of your body.

They provide numerous benefits, but, most notably, improve your overall joint health and cardiovascular health. Taking krill oil, for example, helps lower the risk of high cholesterol, high triglycerides, and heart disease.

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Another very popular type of supplement contains probiotics. You may not be aware of it, but bacteria are another essential part of a healthy body.

Without bacteria, you are unable to properly digest your food, your immune system becomes weaker, and other deleterious effects. Taking a probiotic supplement means ingesting the most beneficial types of bacteria available to improve the microbiome of your digestive tract, particularly the small intestine.

The Bottom Line

Some foods contain the necessary vitamins and minerals your body needs to stay healthy, but modern diets, especially modern American diets, often don't provide us with all the variety we need. 

Using vitamins and other supplements to fortify our diets is a convenient and effective way to ensure our body always has what it needs. This means using krill oil, probiotics, and sometimes specific multivitamins to fill in an dietary gaps you may have. 

Of course, before you can begin using supplements to improve your health, you need to know exactly which supplements you need. Talking to your doctor is a great place to start, as they can provide you with the advice you need.

Even beyond omega-3 fatty acids and probiotic supplements, various herbal supplements are available as well. It's worth researching what is out there in order to get the most from your healthy lifestyle efforts.

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