Multi VitaminsThere is no simple response as to whether one should take a multi-vitamin or not. According to health professionals, the answer depends on who is asking.

Since each individual is unique and has his or her own nutritional requirements, food habits, and health goals, it is advisable to seek professional assistance from your doctor or other health professionals such as a registered dietician. You need to discuss all of your expectations to get proper guidance.

Multi-vitamin and supplement use by adults in the U.S. has soared to more than 50% in the last couple of decades. And, it appears that the upward trend is here to stay. So if you are planning to join the bandwagon or are already on it, educate yourself to get the most out of your supplements.

What are multi-vitamins?

As the name indicates, multi-vitamins are a combination of different vitamins and minerals that are normally sourced from foods and other natural resources. They are used to bridge any gaps that occur due to poor eating habits or illnesses, among other reasons.

According to doctors, nutritional deficiencies can cause problems over long periods of time. For instance, low iron during the childbearing years of a woman’s life can lead to anemia. Medical professionals advise that you use multi-vitamins to plug any nutritional holes while warning that they are solely dietary supplements and not food substitutes.

When is the use of multi-vitamins advisable?

If you are unsure about whether you need multi-vitamins and what kind they should be, you must talk to your doctor or a dietician.

If you are on a healthy diet, you are unlikely to need multi-vitamins since the body absorbs most nutrients most efficiently from food that is being eaten. However, if your diet is spotty, you might suffer from nutritional deficiencies, which manifest themselves as a low iron count, brittle bones, and more.

Therefore, if you have poor eating habits, are a strict vegetarian or vegan, or are on a low-calorie program, you are likely to be missing some key nutrients in your diet. This makes multi-vitamins advisable for you.

When women are pregnant or are breastfeeding, they need higher levels of nutrients for the healthy growth of their babies. Specific pre-natal and post-natal multi-vitamins are available for such needs.

Age-related deficiencies also require compensation. Post-menopausal women are likely to have deficiencies in calcium and vitamin D, which could lead to osteoporosis. They should talk to their doctors about taking the right multi-vitamins, as should older men, who are likely to need specific supplements along with a healthy diet.

If you are above the age of 50, your body’s ability to absorb vitamin D and B12 is likely to be compromised. So make sure you take the right amount of vitamins to supplement the loss.

Talk to your children’s pediatrician to see if they need additional nutrition. Since children might be picky eaters or have food allergies, they might require supplements to fill the gaps. However, make sure you talk to them about taking the proper amounts, given that children’s multi-vitamins can sometimes be mistaken for candy.

Certain medical conditions such as colitis, pancreatitis, cancer, and AIDS might require patients to take multi-vitamins to supplement their meals. Make sure you talk to your attending physician to get the right dose and type of multi-vitamins.

What should I know about taking multi-vitamins?

Most multi-vitamins are available over the counter. However, it might be important to talk to your doctor before you start taking any supplements. This is more so if you have any chronic illnesses, are pregnant or breastfeeding, or are on a medication regime.

Multi-vitamins are not made equal. Not only do they come in different forms such as regular or chewable tablets, powders, capsules, and liquids, they also come in different formulations and doses. Make sure you follow your doctor’s orders or the package label carefully.

Multi-vitamins are available in high dose formulations in combination with iron, calcium, etc. Also called therapeutic multi-vitamins, they should not be self-prescribed.

Make sure you store your multi-vitamins carefully. Keep them at room temperature, away from high heat and moisture. Keep them out of the reach of children since they could mistake them for candy. Keep an eye on the expiration information since multi-vitamins are likely to lose their efficacy after the due date.

Multi-vitamins can cause a range of side effects as well as allergies. From upset stomach to nausea and an unpleasant palate, the side effects can last a while. If the symptoms are severe and ongoing, you need to talk to your doctor. In most cases, they can adjust the formulation to suit your needs.

Multi-vitamins, even those bought over the counter without the advice of a doctor, should not be shared with anyone. The person who ingests your multi-vitamins could face unexpected side effects or allergies that could be life threatening.

In case of an overdose, call the poison control line at 1-800-222-1222. But if you are faced with an emergency such as a collapse, call 911 immediately.