Vitamin supplementation is a topic frequently asked during visits with the doctor. What vitamin should I be on? How can I get tested for vitamin deficiency? There is a whole consumer driven market promoting vitamins and dietary supplements that advertise their products and it can be difficult to decide what is beneficial to take. Be sure to discuss with your doctor, any vitamin or supplements you are taking or interested in taking. Just because you can buy it over-the-counter doesn’t mean that there are no health risks.
Vitamin deficiencies can lead to certain medical conditions, however, most significant vitamin deficiencies are seen in third world countries where the diet is very poor. In the US, most American’s have access to food, however, many of the available choices are not nutrient dense. A diet that is well-balanced in fruits and vegetables, not only provides you with vitamins you need in your diet but it also offers dietary fiber, which is not available in a multivitamin pill.
Typically, vitamin levels are not routinely checked in blood work other than checking for Vitamin D or B12 levels if it is clinically indicated. Your doctor will be able to determine if you have symptoms that warrant checking these levels. Such symptoms include bone or muscle pain, fatigue, dementia or a history of alcohol abuse. Your primary doctor will be able to order these labs if they deem it is necessary.
A standard multivitamin that is available over-the-counter may be sufficient to take for those that do not have a well-balanced diet. Some medical conditions require additional vitamins to ensure good health. For example, pregnant women are encouraged to take a daily prenatal vitamin with folic acid and older adults with higher risk of falls are advised to take Vitamin D.
Be sure to talk to your physician or local pharmacist to discuss vitamins and supplements that are safe for you to take in addition to prescribed medications. Remember, not all supplements are safe depending on your underlying medical condition.