I sit in the examination room with my Fairfield County internist, rattling off my list of vitamins and supplements. “Which ones do I really need?” I ask.
“Let’s start with the multi-vitamins,” he says. “If you eat a healthy diet, you don’t need them. Calcium is a must for you, and it must include at least 100% Vitamin D. Fish oil isn’t necessary, but it’s a good idea.”
Many members of the medical community share his concern about Vitamin D, often referred to as, “The Sunshine Vitamin,” as its absorption is through the sun’s rays. Sunblock hinders this and wearing it daily, as is recommended, may cause a lack of this essential vitamin in our bodies.
I mention the eye vitamins that my ophthalmologist insist I take. “It’s important to follow the advice of all your doctors,” my internist explains, emphasizing how one size, or one list, doesn’t fit all.
I search for more information online. The Mayo Clinic says that by eating a balanced diet with nutrient-rich foods such as fruits, vegetables, whole grains, legumes, low-fat dairy products, lean meats and fish, you likely don’t need supplements; they’re not intended as a substitute for food and can’t replicate all its nutrients and benefits. Their research also suggests that taking vitamin E supplements may raise your risk of heart failure and premature death, and more than 200 mg of vitamin B6 per day may cause nerve pain and seizures.
Choosing the right supplements for your age and body can be a challenge. Since supplements are not regulated in the same way as food and pharmaceuticals, it’s important to purchase them from a reputable dealer. Brand names from a quality assurance standpoint is important.
Armed with this information, I seek out health food stores. My first stop is Nature’s Temptations in Ridgefield, to talk with Dre Dretzin, the store’s in-house Holistic Health Counselor. She advocates Green Vibrance, to address all bodily functions, fish oil, Vitamin D if it’s not included in other supplements, magnesium, digestive enzymes, a probiotic and turmeric.
Next, I consult with Redding-based nutritionist, Lisa Bunce, M.S., R.D.N., (www.lisabunce.com). “The food first approach works best,” she says. “Always begin with the base of your food choices and build from there.” For people over forty, she has a general list: Vitamin D3, Omega 3 fish oils, a daily portion of flax/chia/hemp and a probiotic.
Certified nutritionist, Barry Sherr, C.N., R.H., A.H.G., V.P., owner of Chamomille Natural Foods in Danbury, suggests as a starting point to take a good natural multi-vitamin for energy in the morning and a mineral to promote restful sleep in the evening. The key word here is “natural.” “Beware of cheap,” says Barry. Harmful additives are often added to products shipped here from other countries.
Dora Edgerly, owner of Healthy Foods Plus in Milford, confirms my suspicion that “vitamins and supplements are a multi-massive industry that can overwhelm even the most enthusiastic of fitness folk.” She adds the importance of Vitamin D, and suggests taking calcium and magnesium with food before bedtime.
Still overwhelmed? Seek out a nutritionist first, get his or her recommendations, and then check with your doctor. Some things you can do yourself; deciding which vitamins and minerals you should be taking is not one of them.