Walking down the vitamin aisle at your local pharmacy can be dizzying, especially if you don’t know the lingo—there are so many different letters and doses! So we asked Kevin Ronneberg, MD, associate medical director, Target, to help us decode the do’s and don’ts of a vitamin regimen. Below, he offers insight into the best vitamins for your family, addresses common misconceptions and shares important questions to ask your doctor.
What basic vitamins would you recommend? If you eat a healthy, well-balanced diet, you should be getting the basic vitamins that you need. However, adding supplements to your daily routine can help with any diet deficiencies. Be sure to ask your healthcare provider or Target pharmacist about your specific needs.
- Pregnant women or those planning to become pregnant may require folic acid, which is very important during the first trimester to help reduce the risk of certain birth defects.
- Men and women over 50 often benefit from adding calcium and vitamin D to their daily regimen, as both support bone health
- If your child is a picky eater or has a special diet, a daily multivitamin could help provide the vitamins his/her body need.
How can you be sure you need vitamins or are taking the correct vitamins? Scheduling an appointment with your primary care provider is a great first step in determining your correct vitamin regimen. He or she will be able to conduct lab tests, if indicated, to check for vitamin deficiencies. If you suffer from a deficiency, your provider can recommend the appropriate plan.
At what time of day do you recommend taking vitamins? Vitamins are generally taken daily so there is no true “best time”. However, consistency is recommended, and you should take them at the same time each day.
Are there any common vitamins that can be dangerous if overused? Vitamin D is commonly used to promote bone health and absorption of calcium and, if overused, can have toxic effects. For several years, there has been a push to increase the awareness of vitamin D deficiency, as well as the risks of taking it in excess. In addition viamins A, E and K can build up in the body and lead to complications if you take more than what is needed.
Do you suggest specific supplements for those who have dietary restrictions?
- If you are lactose intolerant, you may have an increased risk of osteoporosis. Calcium and vitamin D are essential vitamins for bone health and may help prevent osteoporosis
- Vegetarians have difficulty getting the proper amount of vitamin B-12, because they don’t eat red meat. Omega 3 fatty acids (generally found in fish and eggs) and vitamin D are also often recommended
- Vegans—who omit dairy as well as meat—may benefit from a variety of additional vitamins like calcium and vitamin D.
- Vitamin B, iron and fiber are important to those on gluten-free diets. Gluten Free Drugs provides a resourceful list.
Be sure to let your healthcare provider know about dietary restrictions so they can make recommendations specific to you and your health.
What are 3 questions you should ask your doctor to help you decide what supplements to take?
- Does my current diet provide all of the necessary vitamins?
- Will certain vitamins or minerals interact with my current medication?
- What type of supplement would you recommend and how much?
What are three misconceptions about vitamins?
- “The more vitamins the better.” Certain vitamins taken in large doses can be toxic.
- “I do not have to tell my healthcare provider about supplements/vitamins that I’m taking, because it’s not a medication.” It is important to notify your healthcare provider and your Target pharmacist about every vitamin or supplement you take as they may impact your health and the effectiveness of other medications you take.
- “All vitamins are created equal.” Knowing which vitamins are approved and meet the standards of the U.S. Food and Drug administration (FDA) regulations is very helpful to ensure you are choosing a brand that meets the guidelines.