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As a kid, popping a single chewy, sugary multivitamin alongside breakfast was easy. But as an adult, navigating the world of vitamin supplements is more complicated. The sheer number of options available at the store, combined with confusing labels and a lack of nutrition knowledge, can turn the simple task of bettering your health into a seemingly impossible feat.

That’s why we chatted with two experts to help clear up the vitamin confusion. Read on to learn what vitamins are, why they’re important and what role they play in a healthy diet.

Vitamins vs. supplements

It’s important to understand the difference between vitamins and vitamin supplements.

Dr. Marc Leavey, a primary care internist at Mercy Medical Center in Baltimore, described vitamins as micronutrients, or “chemicals which act to promote or expedite biochemical reactions within the body.” The majority of vitamins you need come from the environment and the food you eat, he said. Supplements, on the other hand, are the pills you can purchase at the store that contain specific doses of vitamins and minerals, like Vitamin D, iron, biotin and more.

Amy Gorin, a registered dietitian nutritionist and owner of Amy Gorin Nutrition in the New York City area, said vitamins — along with minerals and other nutrients — are essential for good health. For example, Vitamin C can improve your immune health, while potassium (a mineral) can help stabilize your blood pressure, she explained.

The question, then, isn’t whether vitamins are important (they are), but how you should best incorporate them into your daily nutrition plan.

Are daily supplements necessary?

Though you should definitely strive to obtain a variety of nutrients every day, including vitamins and minerals, Leavey doesn’t recommend “routine ingestion of vitamin supplements” to achieve this goal.

You can get the majority of vitamins and minerals you need by eating a healthy, balanced diet, Gorin added.

“Nutrition needs are very individual, and taking such supplements may certainly benefit your health,” she said, especially if you have nutrition deficiencies. “However, this should be determined on an individual basis,” she explained.

In other words, there is no one-size-fits-all rule when it comes to taking supplements. That said, there are certain steps you can take to improve your nutrient intake and boost your overall health.

How to improve your nutrition

Start by examining your diet. Gorin recommended keeping a food journal for several days to record everything you eat and how much.

“You can use a tracker such as MyFitnessPal to do an evaluation of how much of certain nutrients you’re getting, and you can get a feel for if you’re low in certain vitamins and minerals, or other nutrients such as omega-3s,” she explained. You can then use this information as a guide to determine which foods you should add to your diet to help fill your nutrition gaps.

If, however, you adjust your diet and still want to try supplements, Leavey suggested consulting your primary care physician to help guide you through the process. Your doctor can run health tests, pinpoint your deficiencies, and ensure you obtain exactly what you need in the right quantity, he said.

If you do opt to take supplements (for vitamins, minerals or other nutrients), below are four types to consider:

1. Omega-3

Omega-3 supplements containing DHA and EPA can help improve heart and brain health, Gorin said.

“Eating at least two 3.5-ounce servings of cooked fatty fish like salmon and herring weekly would provide the amount of these omega-3s that most people need for good health,” she explained. But if you’re not eating that, she said, a daily supplement of 250 milligrams should do the job.

2. Vitamin D

Vitamin D is crucial for bone health, Gorin stressed, and can also help prevent hyperparathyroidism, “which is an excess of the parathyroid hormone in the bloodstream that may lead to osteoporosis, joint pain and other issues,” she explained.

But since Vitamin D comes primarily from exposure to sunlight and can be difficult to obtain from food, Leavey said, many people are deficient and may require a supplement.

3. Vitamin B12

Vitamin B12 helps your body perform essential functions, like producing red blood cells and maintaining the central nervous system, Gorin said. ”[But] many vegetarians and vegans are low in this vitamin, as many of the good sources are animal-based,” she explained. That’s where a supplement can prove beneficial.

4. Iron

Iron, a mineral present in red blood cells, helps transport oxygen throughout the body. Leavey said iron deficiency, which can cause fatigue and dizziness, is common among menstruating women, but that an iron supplement (in addition to an iron-rich diet) can help combat that deficiency.

Finally, it’s important to keep in mind that supplements aren’t always well-regulated, so be careful when you’re shopping.

“You want to make sure that you’re buying a quality product, one that contains what its label says it does and that doesn’t contain any contaminants,” Gorin said. Her advice? “Shop for one that’s undergone third-party testing or review, such as one with a USP Verified mark.”

 SOURCE: https://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/should-you-be-taking-a-vitamin-every-day_us_5ac26b74e4b04646b6451544

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Practice Policy Update Regarding COVID-19

Dear Patients:

Our patients, employees and family are our top priority at Long Island Spine Specialists, P.C.

We ask you to not visit any of our locations if you have symptoms such as fever, sneezing, coughing and possible shortness of breath.

Please cancel your appointment and re-schedule once you are feeling better and are no longer suffering with symptoms.

Only non-symptomatic patients will be seen. No exceptions.

Accompanying family members – including children – are asked to remain in the waiting area and will not be allowed to enter the exam rooms.

During this time of high concern regarding the spread of COVID-19 (Coronavirus) we are taking extra precautions to maintain the highest possible standards of safety and cleanliness. Please be advised that we are carefully following recommendations from both the CDC and WHO and are here to help guide you through this time if needed.

Some steps we are taking to keeping safe:

  1. We know how important cleanliness is and always maintain the highest standards of cleanliness. To further offer you peace of mind, we have increased the frequency of the cleaning of our office.
  2. Rest assured that hand washing is strictly followed. Hand sanitizer is available to all staff and patients.
  3. Additionally, if you have recently traveled to a country with high rates of the coronavirus or have been on a cruise, please reschedule your visit for at least 14 days from your return date. We will gladly accommodate your needs to reschedule. At that time, a telehealth interface can be arranged if necessary.

Find up-to-date and accurate information on the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) website and feel free to reach out with questions.

- Your team at Long Island Spine Specialists, P.C.

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