Vitamins are a group of organic nutrients, which are essential to regulate the chemical processes that go on in the body. Generally speaking vitamins cannot be made in the body and must be obtained from foods, or supplements. There are two main groups of vitamins. Fat-soluble vitamins such as vitamins A, D , E and K can be dissolved in fat and stored in the body. Water-soluble vitamins which include the B vitamins and vitamin C dissolve in water and are not stored in the body for long periods. Consequently, most water-soluble vitamins need to be replenished on a daily basis. The fat-soluble vitamins store in the body's fatty tissues, so it takes longer before you develop a deficiency.
Sometimes taking medication can deplete the body of certain vitamins and minerals. The Pill for example depletes the woman's body of vital B vitamins, so it is advisable to take extra vitaminswhen taking the Pill. Stress, illness, poor lifestyle or diet and medication can all cause deficiencies. The Recommended Daily Amount (RDA) is a guidance for how much we need to take of each vitamin and mineral per day to avoid a deficiency. These values vary per gender and age. The RDA does not mean the optimum level in the body nor for daily intake. The tolerance levels for water based vitamins can be several magnitudes above the RDA.
Vitamin A is a component of skin and the eyes. It helps prevent night blindness and other eye problems, as well as some skin disorders such as acne. It enhances immunity and is important in the formation of bones and teeth. It aids in fat storage and protects against colds, flu and infections of the kidneys, bladder, lungs and mucous membranes. Vitamin A acts as an antioxidant helping to protect the cells and is necessary for new cell growth. It guards against heart disease and stroke and helps to lower cholesterol levels. This important vitamin also slows the ageing process. High levels an be used temporarily but such use during pregnancy is recommended against.
The B vitamins help to maintain the health of the nerves, skin, eyes, hair, liver and mouth as well as healthy muscle tone in the gastrointestinal tract and proper brain function. B-complex vitamins act as coenzymes, helping enzymes to react chemically with other substances and are involved in energy production. They may be useful for alleviating depression or anxiety as well. Signs of vitamin B Complex deficiency: Because the B vitamins work together, a deficiency in one often indicates a deficiency in another. B vitamins can be produced in the intestines as well as from food sources and any change in the pH of the intestines (say from antacids) may affect our level of B vitamins.
Vitamin C is an antioxidant that is required for at least 300 metabolic functions in the body including tissue growth and repair, adrenal gland function and healthy gums. It speeds up wound healing, prevents many bacterial and viral infections and boosts the immune system to fight off coughs and colds. It reduces histamine production during an allergic attack and is crucial for the healthy growth of teeth, bones, ligaments and blood vessels. It boosts the absorption of iron from the digestive tract by up to 30%, lowers blood cholesterol levels and plays a role in the production of neurotransmitters (chemical messengers) in the brain. Cigarette smoking wipes an estimated 25-35 mg vitamin C out of the body every day and so smokers may need increased doses.
Signs of vitamin C deficiency: Scurvy is the best-known vitamin C deficiency disease, but this condition is rare in Western societies; bleeding gums, persistent allergies and recurring infections would all suggest a need for more vitamin C in the diet or through supplementation.
The sunshine vitamin. Vitamin D is a fat-soluble vitamin that has properties of both a vitamin and a hormone and is required for the absorption and utilisation of calcium and phosphorus. Sunlight triggers the body to make its own vitamin D, so supplementation would be needed in the winter months. Crucial for strong bones and healthy teeth, vitamin D also keeps the immune system strong and is now considered one of the most important vitamins because of its numerous protective roles in the mutation of cells, elevation of mood and cardiovascular health. It can help relieve conjunctivitis and helps the body assimilate vitamin A. Signs of vitamin D deficiency: Severe tooth decay, rickets and other bone and dental problems.
Do not be misled by the name, this is not a single vitamin, but a group of eight different, but related, molecules that sub-divide again into two categories called tocopherols and tocotrienols. Of all eight molecules, the most potent is the d-alpha-tocopherol form and it is vital to check that this is the version of vitamin E that you are using. An active antioxidant, vitamin E also enhances the action of tissue-protecting vitamin A in the body. It is essential for normal cell structure and is so effective for tissue healing that you can reduce long-term scarring by massaging vitamin E oil onto the affected area once the wound has healed. Vitamin E neutralises compounds that increase the risk of cardiovascular disease. Signs of vitamin E deficiency: The single biggest sign of a vitamin E deficiency is dry skin; also menstrual problems.
Vitamin K1 is needed to produce prothrombin, without which the blood will not clot. It is also essential for healthy bones where it is used to synthesize osteocalcin, the protein in bone tissues on which calcium then crystallizes. It can help reduce heavy menstrual flow and will promote healthy liver function. Signs of vitamin K deficiency: Blood-clotting problems and it may also play a role in coeliac disease.
Vitamin K2 is involved with the protein complexes needed to absorb of minerals into bones. It can prevent deposition of calcium in blood vessels and thereby prevent hardening. This can be a factor in atherosclerosis and probably one form of dementia. Vitamin K2′s role in the body includes protecting us from heart disease, forming strong bones, promoting brain function, supporting growth and development and helping to prevent cancer. It performs these functions by helping to deposit calcium in appropriate locations, such as in the bones and teeth, and prevent it from depositing in locations where it does not belong, such as the soft tissues.