It’s easy to become overwhelmed in the world of vitamins, with a seemingly endless list of supplements on offer. Vitamin and mineral supplements can be of huge benefit to those who are needing extra help in some areas, such as those with special diets, vegetarians, vegans, pregnant women or people with food allergies to name a few. Vitamins and minerals play an integral role in the healthy function of the human body right down to a molecular level so it’s important to understand what supplements are the right fit for you.
But where to begin? We’re here to breakdown the A to Z of vitamins, shedding light on some of the most popular vitamin and mineral supplements here at WholeLife Pharmacy and Healthfoods and how they can work with your body to make you feel your best! Of course, we always recommend that you seek the advice of a doctor or dietitian for personalised advice on what may be of benefit for you.
Read on for our A-Z Vitamins guide!
A – Vitamin A
Vitamin A is integral for healthy vision, cell growth and immunity, and also has antioxidant properties that can play a role in fighting free radicals in your body. A vitamin A supplement may lower your risk of specific cancers, reduce your risk of acne, support bone health and promote growth and reproduction. Vitamin A is a popular choice for those wanting to support their skin health.
B – Vitamin B12
Uniquely, vitamin B12 is one of the few essential vitamins that we cannot produce on our own. It is integral in red blood cell formation, neurological function, and DNA synthesis and is important in supporting our energy levels, general health, and wellbeing. Those who follow vegetarian or vegan diets may find their B12 levels difficult to maintain, which is where a B12 supplement could be of benefit.
C – Calcium
Calcium has become synonymous with bone strength and health. You’ll often find a calcium supplement combined with vitamin D, which enhances calcium absorption. Like other minerals in the supplement game, there are a variety of forms available that differ on factors such as how easily it is absorbed into the body and price. People at risk of medical conditions such as osteoporosis may benefit from taking a calcium supplement.
Vitamin D is naturally produced in our body through sun exposure on skin and is involved in immune function and calcium absorption. Vitamin D deficiencies can actually be quite common, especially for people who have a predominately indoor lifestyle, live in cities where tall buildings may block sunlight, and wear sunscreen often. Wearing sunscreen, while good at protecting our skin from skin cancer risks, can reduce the body’s ability to synthesise vitamin D by more than 95%. A Vitamin D supplement can support bone and muscle strength in people who are unable to receive vitamin D through sunlight exposure or diet alone.
Echinacea, a herbaceous flowering plant, has long been used to treat the onset and severity of the common cold or flu. You’ll often find echinacea packaged up with other vitamins such as vitamin C, zinc and even garlic, all aimed at bolstering your immune system and starving off illness.
F – Folic acid
Folic acid is widely recommended by health professionals to be taken by pregnant women, or women planning to conceive, as a way to mitigate the risk of the baby developing defects of the brain and spine, including neural tube defects. You will often find folic acid in women’s health multivitamins and pre-conception and pregnancy multivitamins; however folic acid is beneficial for both men and women!
G – Glucosamine
Glucosamine is one of the important building blocks of cartilage which is the connective tissue cushioning your joints. It’s often found in supplements in combination with chondroitin, which is also important in maintaining healthy joints. These supplements are used to treat osteoarthritic pain due to their anti-inflammatory properties.
H – Horseradish
Horseradish is mostly associated as being a spicy condiment, but it may have a variety of healing properties in Western herbal medicine ranging from relieving symptoms of upper respiratory tract infections to helping out with urinary tract infections (UTI). You’ll find horseradish packaged up with other immunity boosting vitamins and herbs such as vitamin C and garlic.
I – Iron
Low iron levels are common and can be the cause of a myriad of issues such as lack of energy, hair loss, headaches and shortness of breath. An iron supplement can be of benefit where your iron needs are not being met through diet alone. Replenishing your iron levels if they are low or depleted, can assist you in feeling energised in your day to day.
J – Juniper
Juniper is a plant, and its berry is often used in herbal medicines to treat digestion issues such as indigestion, flatulence, heartburn and bloating. It may also help urinary tract infections due to its perceived antiseptic effect.
K – Vitamin K
Supporting bone health, vitamin K is usually found on the shelves in the form of a vitamin K2 supplement. Vitamin K2 supports calcium absorption in bones, as well as supporting cardiovascular and artery health. A vitamin K supplement may be recommended for those who are at risk of developing osteoporosis.
L – Lecithin
Lecithin is a fat that is essential to the healthy functioning of cells in the body. Taking lecithin in supplement form can help to support your liver health and help with the digestion of dietary fats.
M – Magnesium
Up to two thirds of people in the Western world don’t meet their magnesium intake needs through diet alone, which is why some people may benefit from a magnesium supplement. There are different forms of magnesium available in supplements with varying levels of absorption. Magnesium aspartate, citrate, lactate, and chloride have been found to absorb better and are more bioavailable than other forms of magnesium, so make sure to look for these types on the label of your magnesium bottles.
Magnesium may help boost exercise performance and recovery, alleviate the severity of menstrual cramps, relieve symptoms of PMS, prevent migraines, help calm the nervous system, decrease pain and inflammation, improve mood, and help you sleep.
N – Niacin
Niacin (also known as vitamin B3) can help lower cholesterol, ease arthritis, boost brain function and support skin health.
O – Omega 3 and 6
Omega 3 and 6 are polyunsaturated fatty acids, both a type of fat that our bodies can’t make alone so it’s important we’re monitoring our intake to make sure we get enough. It is also important to get the ratio right; we should be getting more omega 3 than omega 6.
Omega 3 can help improve your heart health, fights inflammation, supports your metabolism, supports your mental health among many other benefits. Omega 6 mainly provide energy for your body. You can often find omega 3 and 6 supplements as an all in one capsule on the shelves at WholeLife, often under the label of fish oil for omega 6 and evening primrose oil for omega 6.
P – Probiotics
Probiotics contain millions of beneficial bacteria that can assist in maintaining the balance of good versus bad bacteria in the gut. Probiotics can help those with irritable bowel syndrome, ulcerative colitis and Crohn’s disease manage symptoms. Probiotics are also beneficial for those who have been prescribed a course of antibiotics, as they can kill the beneficial bacteria in the body as well as the bad. Having a balance of good and bad bacteria in the gut also helps maintain the natural balance of bacteria in other areas, such as the vagina and urinary tract.
Q – Quandong
Quandong is a native Australian bush food that is high in vitamin C and antioxidants. As well as being able to be eaten in its fruit form, quandong can also be supplemented in powder form or as a liquid extract.
R – Red Krill Oil
Red krill oil, like fish oil, contain essential omega 3 fatty acids that our body needs but cannot produce on its own. There is some research to suggest that krill oil may be a better source of omega 3 than fish oil as the fats in krill oil may be easier for the body to absorb. Krill oil is often taken as a supplement to help with joint and arthritic pain due to its anti-inflammatory properties.
S – Spirulina
Spirulina is an algae that can grow in both fresh and salt water. It isn’t just one vitamin, but in fact is rich in a variety of vitamins and minerals that are essential for your immune health. It is classified by many as one of the most nutrient dense foods on the planet. Spirulina contains protein, vitamin B1, iron, omega 3, chlorophyll and powerful antioxidants among others.
T – Turmeric
Turmeric isn’t just good to add flavour in your favourite dishes! Turmeric has anti-inflammatory properties due to containing curcumin (which is sometimes what you’ll find this supplement named as on the shelf at WholeLife). Turmeric’s key benefits includes relieving inflammation, supporting joint health and supporting healthy digestion.
U – Ubiquinol
Ubiquinol is a form of coenzyme 10 (usually written as CoQ10, which is what you’ll often find it as on the shelves at WholeLife) which supports cellular energy in the body. Ubiquinol is an active and bioavailable form of CoQ10. As we age, ubiquinol levels naturally decline, so taking a ubiquinol supplement may help you mitigate the slow decline in your ubiquinol levels.
V – Vitex
Vitex, also known as vitex agnus-castus, is a supplement that is used in herbal medicines to treat a variety of issues related to hormonal balance. Vitex is often used as a natural way to help treat premenstrual syndrome (PMS), acne, infertility, menopausal symptoms among other hormonal related issues.
W – Withania
Also known as Ashwagandha, withania is an important herb in Ayurvedic medicine. Withania is often used to help stress, anxiety, fatigue – in fact, withania is an adaptogen meaning that it can be used to help your body resist physiological and psychological stress. Ayurvedic medicine is one of the oldest alternative medical systems in the world, originating from India.
X – Xanthium
Xanthium is one of the most popular herbs in Chinese herbal medicine used to help alleviate the symptoms of sinus congestion and respiratory allergies. It is a herb known in many medical traditions for opening the nasal cavity.
Y – Yarrow
Yarrow is a herb that is commonly used to help wound healing, fever, the common cold among others. Essentially it is a herb that may help support the immune system. You can find yarrow in a capsule form, as well as in teas and essential oils.
Z – Zinc
Zinc is a mineral found throughout your body and is commonly thought to shorten the length and severity of the common cold. People who benefit most from taking zinc are those who are deficient or those who are wishing to give their immune system a boost. Zinc is also involved in wound healing, as adequate levels of the mineral is needed to create new cells.
Our A to Z Vitamin guide is only scratching the surface of the world of vitamins! If you’d like any more information on a certain supplement or want to discuss which supplements may be of benefit to you, make sure you have a chat to your preferred healthcare professional.
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#Always read the label. Follow the directions for use. This medicine may not be right for you, read the label before purchase. If symptoms persist, talk to your health professional. *Nutritional supplements may only be of assistance if dietary intake is inadequate.