Why take vitamins? Some patients asked me this wonderful question. In this post are some facts about vitamins including what are vitamins, why we are often low in vitamins, and illnesses that can happen due to vitamin deficiencies.
What Are Vitamins?
Vitamins are nutrients that our body needs in small amounts to function and stay healthy.1 We get vitamins from our food as well as dietary supplements.
Why Take Vitamins?
Because our modern food is often inadequate in vitamins due to a number of factors.
1. Fast Food Culture
First of all, most of us do not eat a balanced diet. Instead, we thrive on fast food which is often low in nutrients including vitamins and minerals. Here are some interesting statistical facts: On any given day, 50 million Americans consume fast food.2
Almost everyone knows that fast food is unhealthy, but a large number of people still continue to consume it regularly. Mind-boggling! Even more amazing is how people justify their habit of fast-food consumption. Whatever the reason, the fact remains that a large segment of society continues to eat unhealthy fast food.
2. Commercial Farming
Even if someone tries to eat a well-balanced diet, their food items may not supply all the nutrients. But why? Because most of our food comes from commercial farming, which heavily relies on monocropping, pesticides, and synthetic fertilizers. The net effect of these practices is a soil that is depleted of natural microbiome. Consequently, we have food items which are low in vitamins.
Commercial farming also takes into account the shelf-life of a product. That’s why many fruits such as bananas and tomatoes are not ripe when they are picked, but are ready to sell by the time they are in grocery stores and stay on shelf for a long time. Unfortunately, vitamin content is the last thing on a commercial farmer’s mind.
To make matters worse, our food goes from farmland to processing plants which further reduces the amounts of healthy nutrients.
3. Food Allergies and Food Sensitivities
A significant number of people avoid certain foods due to food allergies or food sensitivities. Consequently, they are at risk of vitamin deficiencies.
Food allergies are life-threatening and need immediate medical attention. Sadly, these allergies are on the rise. According to the Centers for Disease Control & Prevention the prevalence of food allergy in children increased by 50 percent between 1997 and 2011.3
Food sensitivities are not life-threatening but give rise to troubling symptoms such as diarrhea, bloating, abdominal pain, and even systemic effects such as facial acne, menstrual irregularities, and autoimmune disorders. Food sensitivity affects 15-20% of the population.4
Moreover, 50-80% of patients with Irritable Bowel Syndrome have food sensitivity issue. 5
4. Vegetarianism and Veganism
If you do not eat animal products due to religious reasons, personal preference or some other reason, you become low in vitamins especially vitamin B12, zinc, and iron, a scientific fact. After a critical analysis of 48 studies, researchers concluded that “Following a vegan diet may result in deficiencies in micronutrients (vitamin B12, zinc, calcium and selenium) which should not be disregarded.” 6
6. Excessive Alcohol Intake
Many people consume alcohol in excessive amounts but remain in denial. Excessive alcohol intake is known to cause deficiency of several vitamins and minerals especially Vitamin B1, B3, B6, B12, all of which play a role in neurologic disorders in alcoholics.7
In addition, even moderate amounts of alcohol consumption on a chronic basis can lead to magnesium deficiency.8
7. Modern Lifestyle
Most people are low in Vitamin D, which is a a direct result of our modern lifestyle. Here are some basic facts: We mostly stay indoors even if we are living in sunny places. When we go outdoors, we make sure to apply a layer of sunscreen which prevents the synthesis of Vitamin D.
In addition, our modern lifestyle is causing an epidemic of iodine deficiency.
Almost everyone in Western countries is at risk of iodine deficiency according to an excellent Book, “The Iodine Crisis.” Your cells may be low in iodine although your urine test may show that you have adequate iodine. This is the mechanism: Chlorine, Fluoride and Bromine compete with Iodine to enter into the cells and we are consuming huge amounts of these competitors of iodine. For example, most of our government-regulated drinking water contains Chlorine and Fluoride, not to mention fluoride-loaded toothpastes. Bromine is widely used in agriculture, sanitation, commercially-baked breads and as a fire-retardant in our car seats, and household furniture.
Some individuals may be at even high risk of iodine deficiency, such as patients on restricted salt intake because of high blood pressure and congestive heart failure. Patients with chronic kidney disease, chronic diarrhea and malnutrition are also at increased risk of iodine deficiency.
In addition, there is an increasing trend towards salt-free and vegan diets for a variety of reasons. Iodine deficiency is quite likely to develop in these individuals.
A lot of individuals have replaced iodized salt with sea salt or Himalayan salt, both of which are excellent health choices, as these salts contain about 83 minerals, as compared to iodized salt, which only contains Sodium Chloride and the added Potassium Iodide. However, sea salt contains very little iodine and Himalayan salt contains none. Therefore, if you decide to go on sea salt or Himalayan salt, you need to take a high quality supplement of iodine.
Pregnant Women are Even at Higher Risk of Iodine Deficiency
Iodine requirements increase during pregnancy. For this reason, WHO (World Health Organization) now recommends daily dietary intake of iodine as 250 microgram in pregnant women, as compared to 150 micrograms per day for non-pregnant women in order to avoid hypothyroidism in newborns.9
Can Vitamin Deficiency Cause Illness?
Yes, vitamin deficiencies are well known to cause illnesses. Here a few examples:
Vitamin B12 deficiency can cause fatigue, anemia, peripheral neuropathy, subacute combined degeneration of the spinal cord, sore tongue, stroke and heart attack. Folate deficiency can cause fatigue, anemia, sore tongue, and depression, infertility and congenital defects in the fetus, stroke and heart attack.
Magnesium deficiency can cause Muscle spasms and cramps, Fibromyalgia, Irritability, Anxiety, Insomnia, Seizures, Irregular heartbeat/heart arrhythmias/Atrial fibrillation, High blood pressure, Chest pain to spasm of coronary arteries, Chronic fatigue, Migraine headaches, Menstrual cramping, Menopausal symptoms, Tics, Lack of appetite, Nausea/vomiting, Lack of balance, Vertigo, ADD/ADHD, Dementia, Constipation.
Zinc deficiency can cause fatigue, loss of appetite, impaired immune function, delayed healing of wounds, diarrhea, hair loss, taste abnormalities, skin ulcers, age-related macular degeneration, delayed puberty, impotence, low testosterone and weight loss.
Iodine deficiency can lead to underactive thyroid, enlarged thyroid gland, cysts in breasts and ovaries, and low testosterone.
Vitamin D deficiency can lead to increased risk of bone fractures, teeth-fractures, infections, cancer, diabetes, heart disease, high blood pressure, depression, skin disorders, neurologic diseases, and autoimmune diseases. Some relatively common autoimmune disease are asthma, rheumatoid arthritis, lupus, ulcerative colitis, Type 1 diabetes, and Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis.
Are Dietary Supplements Safe?
Most vitamins are generally safe. Our patients at the Jamila Diabetes & Endocrine Medical Center have been using a variety of vitamins for over 15 years. They undergo blood testing periodically as a part of their ongoing health care. We have not noticed any toxic effects of vitamins over all of these years.
Like any other product, quality of the dietary supplements is important. That’s why I formulated several vitamins which are manufactured at a highly reputable facility in the U.S.A.
This facility is FDA-registered and GMP-Certified.
Here is a list of my vitamins:
4- Vitamin K2
Why Physicians Do Not Recommend Vitamins
In general, physicians do not recommend vitamins and their patients continue to suffer from vitamin and mineral deficiency.
It is not necessarily the fault of physicians that they do not recommend vitamins. The simple truth is that vitamins and minerals are not part of their medical curriculum. Why? Because the pharmaceutical industry pays for most of the medical research carried out at big-name medical institutions. As a result, what most physicians learn is how to prescribe a drug. Sad but true!
In addition, there is an unscientific skepticism in the medical community against vitamins and minerals. Most physicians are so arrogant that they do not even bother to read about the scientific studies clearly showing health benefits of vitamins and minerals. In my opinion, most physicians suffer from arrogance which keeps them ignorant. Unfortunately, it is the patients who pay the price, literally.
Most people do not get adequate amounts of vitamins through their food due to a variety of factors. Therefore, it is important to take dietary supplements to prevent illnesses.