Habits That Might Be Robbing You of Nutrients
You probably already know that eating a diet with a variety of vitamins and minerals is one of the most important things you can do to maintain your health. But there are little things that some of us do every day that deprive our bodies of vital nutrients. By cutting out or counteracting these vitamin-robbing habits, you can get the most out of your diet and supplements.
If you use and reapply sunscreen as directed and use it every day (most people don’t) or spend most days indoors, you may be vitamin D deficient. When the sun’s UVB rays (yes, the same rays that cause sunburn) hit your skin, they allow your skin cells to make vitamin D. Among other functions, vitamin D helps you absorb calcium from your food. It doesn’t take long for your body to make enough vitamin D for the day, but there are a lot of office workers who spend days at a time indoors and whose skin only sees direct sunlight walking to and from their cars and on weekend outings. If this sounds like you, you may want to take a vitamin D supplement, especially if you don’t consume dairy products, which are often fortified with vitamin D.
The American diet (at least in the last century) has been the type of diet you would eat if you were trying to be constipated. White rice and white bread products, staples in the US, are grains that have been stripped of their insoluble fiber, roughage that’s necessary to help move food through the colon. Though diet isn’t the only cause of constipation, studies have estimated that constipation may affect as much as 20% of the North American population. As a result, prescription and over-the-counter laxatives are popular, and some people are dependent on them, taking them almost daily.
Because laxatives move food through the digestive system quickly, the body isn’t always able to absorb the nutrients it needs. For this reason, it’s best to avoid developing a dependence on laxatives. Try to reserve them for emergency situations and to make changes to your diet to manage constipation, eating lots of plant fiber and drinking plenty of water. If you have to take laxatives regularly, ask your doctor about supplementing with a multivitamin.
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Tea or Coffee with Breakfast
Many people take pills, including supplements, with breakfast or right before or after breakfast, not realizing that the coffee and tea they’re drinking with their eggs may be minimizing the effectiveness of their pricey vitamin supplements. Chemicals found in tea and coffee can reduce the absorption of certain nutrients like iron, zin, magnesium, calcium, and vitamin D. By drinking your coffee or tea at least an hour after you take supplements or by taking them at night instead of in the morning, you can get more out of them.
Daily, low-dose aspirin is sometimes recommended for people who are at high risk of heart attack or stroke. (Aspirin should only be taken daily when recommended by a doctor.) While the benefits of aspirin may outweigh the risks for some people, the risks are nothing to sneeze at and include gastrointestinal bleeding. One of the reasons for this risk is that aspirin block absorption of vitamin C, which plays an important protective role in the lining of your stomach. Some studies have found that you can reduce your risk of gastrointestinal side-effects from aspirin by taking a vitamin C supplement.
While they’re often overused, we all genuinely need antibiotics sometimes. But they rob of us something we need to stay healthy. What they take from us isn’t technically a nutrient—they kill good bacteria in our guts that help us digest our food and fight off microbes that would otherwise make us sick. When we take an antibiotic, it indiscriminately attacks all types of microbes in our bodies, the ones that are making us sick and the ones that are helping us out, causing diarrhea and sometimes yeast infections. (Yeast populations can thrive when competing bacteria have been wiped out.) By taking a probiotic supplement when you need antibiotics, you may be able to keep levels of good bacteria high enough to minimize side effects.