Taking vitamins and supplements: The basics

Author: ANCP   Date Posted:27 August 2014 

Vitamins are most commonly provided to our body through the food that we eat. Healthy eating and a balanced diet should provide our bodies with an appropriate amount of nourishment. It’s unfortunate, however, that most of us do not always eat the way that we should.

Many factors including busy lifestyles mean that we don’t always get at least five servings of vegetables and two servings of fruit as well as appropriate fats, carbs and proteins on a daily basis.

Plus there are often additional factors such as inadequate sunlight, coeliac disease (and the results of following other restrictive diets) or certain deficiencies which mean that we may require a vitamin boost.

The most commonly taken type of vitamin supplement is a multivitamin. It is a quick and easy supplement to take daily that gives you a boost of many of the essentials, ideal for supporting general wellbeing and when your diet is good but not perfect. Most multivitamins should contain vitamin A (or betacarotene), a range of B vitamins, as well as vitamins C, D and E. You may want to consider looking for a multivitamin with some added extras such as iron, zinc, and magnesium.

There are different types of multivitamins created for women, men, children, pregnant and older people, tailored to their specific needs. Before deciding to take a vitamin, or when considering which vitamin to take, it’s highly recommended that you consult with a naturopath, or a qualified healthcare professional. A typical naturopathic consultation will consider your specific nutrient requirements, any vitamins or other medication that you are currently taking and your overall health.

This is crucial as some supplements can interact with common medications e.g. St John’s Wort may change the way many medicines are broken down by the body. It also means you will receive an effective, personalised recommendation.

The choice of vitamins and supplements can seem overwhelming. When choosing the right vitamin supplement, try to choose products from reputable, trustworthy brands. Consider where the vitamins and supplements are designed and manufactured and the origin of the ingredients. The Australian vitamin and supplement industry is regulated so you should look for companies that list their products on the Australian Register of Therapeutic Goods (ARTG).

When it comes to taking your vitamins, again it is best to seek the advice of a qualified naturopath. Some vitamins are best taken with foods and some are recommended to be taken on an empty stomach. Some vitamins you will get most benefit from taking in the morning, others just before bed. Many vitamins aren’t absorbed as effectively when taken with caffeine so it’s generally best to avoid taking your supplements with your morning cup of tea or coffee.

As a general rule, you may need to take vitamins consistently for up to three months before you start noticing a difference. If after three months you don’t notice any improvement, it’s time to re-consult with your naturopath to discuss dosing and alternative products to ensure you’re getting the best results possible.