Does taking vitamins and supplements actually make a difference?

In short, yes. But, ideally, one should be getting all of the necessary vitamins, minerals and antioxidants through a healthy, balanced diet. In fact, a recent report from the Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) found that 1 in 10 people have at least one nutritional deficiency. Vitamin deficiencies can lead to physical and emotional symptoms, women of child-bearing age should consume folic acid to prevent birth defects in cases of potential pregnancy. Those with heart disease are advised to consume omega-3-fatty acids. Calcium and vitamin D are important for bone health.”

Vitamin Bs

The B-complex vitamins are water-soluble vitamins necessary for metabolizing fat and proteins. These vitamins are also required for blood cell formation, brain and nervous system function. A deficiency in the B vitamins, specifically B-1 and B-2 are a common cause of extremity swelling. Lack of vitamin B-1, for instance, can cause fluid increases around the heart, leading to the heart’s inability to pump correctly and causing leg swelling. Following a diet with meats and whole grains can decrease chances of a deficiency. B vitamin supplements are also available over the counter.

Vitamin C

Vitamin C is a water-soluble vitamin and antioxidant. The body requires vitamin C for the blood vessels, bones, tendons, nerves and immune system. Antioxidants decrease the signals that cause inflammation and protect the cells. This can decrease or even stop swelling. Vitamin C cannot be stored in the body and must be taken in by diet or supplements. Citrus fruits, broccoli and peppers contain significant amounts of vitamin C. If your diet does not provide enough vitamin C, your doctor may suggest a supplement.

Vitamin D

Vitamin D is a fat-soluble vitamin that can be consumed from food or produced by the body when exposed to the sun. Vitamin D is needed to absorb calcium required for strengthening bones. It is also beneficial for decreasing inflammation and swelling. The University of Maryland Medical Centre also notes that vitamin D might lower the risk of preeclampsia during pregnancy, a condition that causes swelling of the feet. Sources of vitamin D are dairy, tuna, salmon, and cod. If your doctor determines you need more vitamin D, supplements can be taken in capsule or tablet form.

It’s also important to consider your eating and diet habits. “You should definitely do your dietary homework and know what your daily diet is missing. Vitamin D, which is notoriously difficult to get from its primary sources, which are the sun and natural foods. Since 75% of people are deficient in Vitamin D, additional supplementation is often recommended.

High doses of certain vitamins can lead to stomach cramping and diarrhoea. At higher than recommended levels, some vitamins can lead to more serious, long-term complications, including hardening of blood vessels. “Some supplements can be outright dangerous and cause everything from palpitations to dangerous heart rhythms to liver and kidney failure.

Remember that supplements are medications and should be treated the same way that we treat prescription medication. “It is always recommended that you check with your doctor first before starting any supplements — even vitamins.  Just because something is sold over the counter does not necessarily mean it is safe. Additionally, while it may be safe for most people, it may not be safe for you specifically.”