It’s more than likely you take some kind of vitamins every day. Multivitamins are a popular choice as you can (hopefully) get everything you need in one handy pill. You may have wondered from time to time just how your body absorbs vitamins.
Can You Get All You Need From Diet?
Vitamins and minerals can not be made by the body so we have to consume them in some form. In a perfect world we would get all of these from our diet. The sad truth is I don’t think any of us could claim to be eating the kind of healthy, balanced diet we should.
You are probably familiar with the guidelines that we should eat five, seven or even ten portions of fruit or vegetables a day. Research indicates that about half of the average adults in the UK only manage three! Even if you are conscientiously eating your five portions that isn’t enough. A wide variety is needed. Have you heard the phrase ‘eat the rainbow’? It’s a simple way to try and get across the concept that we need an extremely diverse selection of food to get all the nutrients we need. If you only eat carrots, peas, green beans and broccoli for vegetables and apples and oranges for fruit, your diet, while healthy, will not be giving the full range of nutrients your body needs.
What Is In A Multivitamin?
Obviously each brand of multivitamin has a different ingredients list. What they will all have is a mixture of vitamins and minerals, with maybe some oils and herbs as well. These are known as micronutrients because we only need a ‘micro’ or small amount of them. If you think of your body as a factory, with all the bodily systems, such as cardiovascular or digestive, as the machines. The micronutrients are like the engineers who go round fixing, maintaining and oiling the machines. The engineers may be small in size compared to the big machines but without them the factory will grind to a halt. In the same way micronutrients assist with all the processes your body performs to keep you alive and without them your systems would shut down and eventually you would die.
Vitamins are organic, contain carbon, can be broken down by heat, air, or acid and are mainly derived from living matter such as plants. Scientists have come to the conclusion that there are thirteen vitamins that are essential for the body to function. These thirteen can be divided into water soluble and fat soluble vitamins.
The water soluble vitamins are vitamin C and the B vitamins, that is thiamine (B1), riboflavin (B2), niacin (B3), pantothenic acid (B5), pyridoxine (B6), biotin (B7), folate (B9) and cobalamin (B12). Being water soluble these vitamins are found in the watery part of the food we eat. They are absorbed directly into the bloodstream during digestion. You may remember that 60 percent of your body is water so the water-soluble vitamins circulate easily in your body. Your kidneys continuously regulates the levels of water-soluble vitamins, flushing any excess out in your urine. This generally means you need to have some of these water soluble vitamins every day.
The fat soluble vitamins are A, D, E, and K. As you can probably guess, these four vitamins can not dissolve in water but instead dissolve in fats and oils. Fat soluble vitamins are mostly found in high fat foods and if taken as a supplement are more easily absorbed if they are consumed along with some kind of fat.
This means that unlike water soluble vitamins, the body has to work harder to use the fat soluble vitamins. Bile is needed to break down fat in the small intestine. The fat soluble vitamins go through the lymph channels in the walls of the small intestine and into the bloodstream. Usually, fat-soluble vitamins need a protein in order to travel through the body. Any excess amount of the fat soluble vitamins are stored in fat tissues and the liver. If any of these vitamins are needed in the future your body can tap into these reserves. This means you don’t have to consume these fat soluble vitamins every single day.
There are sixteen minerals your body needs for optimal functionality. Minerals are inorganic which means they can hold on to their chemical structure. Due to this, minerals in soil and water can easily find their way into our bodies through the plants, fish, animals, and fluids we consume. These are further subdivided into macrominerals and microminerals. While you still only need a small amount of these you need considerably smaller, trace amounts of the microminerals than macrominerals.
The macrominerals are calcium, chloride, magnesium, phosphorus, potassium, sodium, and sulphur. The microminerals are iron, zinc, iodine, chromium, copper, fluoride, molybdenum, manganese, and selenium. Most of our minerals are absorbed in the small intestine in a variety of different ways. A lot of minerals are water soluble but many are also stored by your body. Minerals can interact with each another, sometimes in ways that can trigger imbalances. Too much of one mineral, even in tiny amounts, can cause a deficiency of another.
It is always wise to be sensible when taking any kind of multivitamin. Your body can use micronutrients in many ways, some good and some bad. It is easy to find out what the recommended dose for your age and gender is for whatever supplement you are thinking of taking but if you are not sure then it best to speak to a professional.