Have you ever wondered why the word 'essential' often precedes the term, 'vitamins'?
The reason is simple, really. Vitamins as well as minerals, ensure that our bodies, and the cells, tissues, and organs of which they are comprised, function as well as they can and in the manner they are designed to function. Interestingly, as important as vitamins are to both mental and physical health and well being, the human body lacks the ability to manufacture most on its own.
In fact, in the case of the water soluble vitamins, not only is the body unable to make the vitamin, it is unable to keep it and must continually receive new nutritional deposits from outside sources to provide what it cannot manufacture, or, in the case of water soluble vitamins, keep in stock.
So, What Exactly Are Vitamins?
Vitamins are organic compounds, and, as such they're found naturally in many of the foods we eat. They're also available in the form of vitamin supplements. Thirteen different vitamins are needed to perform such crucial functions as helping protect against infections and disease, helping the body's metabolism, helping the body grow and helping the body remove waste.
Vitamins are a bit like building blocks. A healthy body is able to put these blocks together to create the enzymes and hormones that, among other things, control heart rate, blood pressure, glucose levels and other chemical reactions. Because of the wide range of their functions, however, they can also be thought of as lubricants, activators, and catalysts.
How Much of a Vitamin is Enough?
The actual daily needs of any individual is different from another person's due to many factors which can influence need. A recommended daily allowance (RDA) of the various vitamins has been established, but is based on the average needs for basic health of the overall population. Each person's need is different depending on many factors, including, but not limited to, age, sex, activity levels, balance of nutrients, and current state of health.
Women who are pregnant for example, need a different combination of vitamins to protect the fetus against birth defects. Adult men have different requirements than adult women. Children, teenagers and seniors all have different nutritional requirements as well.
Thinking about food as a source of fuel is helpful. Give your body the right type of fuel and it will perform at optimum capacity. Fuel it with the wrong things, and over time, performance will begin to decline.
Problems Associated with Vitamin Deficiencies
Although perhaps not easily noticeable at first, vitamin deficiencies can lead to serious health issues further on down life's road. It seems a bit of a paradox, considering all the food choices available to most of the population in developed countries, but few people today eat what would be considered a nutritionally-balanced diet. Many in fact, have developed some pretty poor eating habits. High fat foods, processed foods, fast food and restaurant food have taken the place of healthy foods.
Because people can't see what is going on inside their body, it's difficult for them to get a good understanding of the negative effects a poor diet can have on the body. Generally, it's not until the body begins putting on excess weight that the effects start to become visually noticeable. But long before the excess weight settles in, trouble is often already brewing inside due to vitamin deficiencies.
What types of problems are associated with vitamin deficiencies?
Well, let's look at a couple of examples.
Insufficient Vitamin D can cause weak or even deformed bones. Not enough Vitamin E can lead to the destruction of red blood cells. Not enough Vitamin C can cause tiredness, weakness, sore muscles and can cause gums to bleed. An overall vitamin deficiency can even lead to death.
A daily multivitamin supplement is usually an effective way to fill in the nutritional gaps caused by poor eating habits. But, beyond that, the only accurate way of knowing if the body is getting enough vitamins is with a blood test easily done at your doctor's office. A simple rule of thumb in the absence of a specific test, is, if you don't think you're getting enough vitamins, you probably aren't. Do yourself a favor and find out soon.