Vitamins A-Z

Some vitamins are water-soluble. This means they dissolve in liquid or fluids. Since your body is mostly made up of fluid, you can quickly and easily absorb water-soluble vitamins. They also leave the body quickly through fluid loss such as urination. That is why sometimes your urine may appear bright yellow. Some vitamins are better taken two or three times every day. This way keeps enough in your system to meet the demands of the day. Each vitamin in the water-soluble B-vitamin group should be taken together in order for each one to work properly.

Other vitamins are fat-soluble. They are absorbed by fat cells. These can be taken just once a day or even just a few times a week. Fat-soluble vitamins are used up fast when you are under high-stress. This is true when you are in pain, when you are fighting infection, or when you are healing an injury. Did you know!

Vitamins and Minerals

What do vitamins and minerals do for you?

Vitamin B12

Vitamin B12 is the largest and most complex of all the vitamins. You need vitamin B12 so your body can create energy from your dietary fats and proteins. B12 is needed for you to make hemoglobin. Hemoglobin carries oxygen in the red blood cells. Vitamin B12 is needed for your nerves to function properly and for your moods to stay even. It even helps your memory and brain function.

Vitamin B12 deficiency affects about 15 percent of the people over the age of 60. There are several reasons people are low in B12. Most of these are related to changes in the stomach lining. These changes occur with age, from drinking alcohol, or from infection with bacteria that live in stomach ulcers. Certain drugs such as acid blockers used for gastric reflux or Glucophage used for Type 2 diabetes can also affect the stomach lining. 


The terms folic acid and folate can both be used to refer to this B-complex vitamin.

Folate plays a vital role the work and the growth of all your body cells. Not having enough folate causes a number of different problems in the cells. Some of your immune system white blood cells will be affected. A shortage of folate for the rapidly dividing cells of the bone marrow will result in fewer but larger red blood cells. This causes a type of anemia called megaloblastic or macrocytic anemia. The large, immature red blood cells that result do not carry oxygen normally. If you do not take in enough folate you will experience fatigue, weakness, and shortness of breath. Megaloblastic anemia from folate deficiency is the same as megaloblastic anemia resulting from vitamin B12 deficiency. Never take a folate supplement without making sure you have enough Vitamin B12. 

Vitamin B6

Vitamin B6 is needed for the proper function of about 100 essential chemical reactions in the human body.

Vitamin B6 is needed to make heme, a component of hemoglobin. Hemoglobin is found in red blood cells. It is vital to the their ability to transport oxygen throughout your body.

People who are low in vitamin B6 have impaired immune function. This is especially true for the elderly. sleep, pain, mood, memory, and clear thinking are also affected by a shortage of Vitamin B6. The stress of hospitalization for surgery causes many people to lose sleep. Increased pain and mood changes are also common. You may find your appetite is changed when you are in the hospital. And you may not eat as well as you should. Taking a supplement that contains all of the B vitamin complex, including Vitamin B6, will help decrease the effects of your stress. 

Vitamin B1 (thiamine or thiamin)

Vitamin B1 plays a critical role in making energy from food. It is needed for your heart, digestive system, and nervous system. Your muscles especially need vitamin B1 to work properly.

Thiamine deficiency is caused by not eating enough thiamine-rich foods. This occurs most often in low-income groups. Their diets are often high in carbohydrates. Alcoholism is linked with low intake of thiamine and other nutrients. Chronic alcohol use is the main cause of thiamine deficiency in higher income groups.

If you drink large amounts of tea and coffee (even decaf), you may end up with not enough thiamine. This is because of the action of certain enzymes in these drinks. Vitamin C and other antioxidants can protect your thiamine levels by preventing it from changing into an inactive form.

There are no known toxic effects from thiamine in food or from long-term oral supplementation (up to 200 mg/day). 

Vitamin B2 (riboflavin)

Vitamin B2 is essential for changing the carbohydrates, fats, and proteins in your food into energy in your cells. It also helps manage drugs and environmental pollution in your liver.

If you do not have enough riboflavin you may not be able to absorb the iron you need to make hemoglobin in your red blood cells. Studies show that increasing your riboflavin intake will increase your red blood cell hemoglobin levels. Riboflavin improves your ability to prevent or recover from iron-deficiency anemia.

No toxic or adverse effects of high riboflavin intake in humans are known. High dose riboflavin therapy makes your urine a bright yellow color. This is a harmless side effect.

Vitamin B5 (pantothenate)

Pantothenic acid is essential to all forms of life. It is another of the vitamins you need to create energy from your food. Vitamin B5 is key to making the special fats that cover your nerves. This covering or lining is called a nerve sheath. It’s needed to pass messages along your nerves to all your tissues. Vitamin B5 helps regulate the production of cholesterol and your major hormones. B5 is needed to make hemoglobin to carry oxygen in your red blood cells. Your liver uses it to break down many drugs and environmental toxins.

Vitamin B5 will speed up wound healing. It can also increase the strength of scar tissue. Pantetheine is a form of vitamin B5 that can help lower your cholesterol and triglycerides if these are too high.

Vitamin B3 (niacin)

Vitamin B3 is also called nicotinamide or nicotinic acid. It is required for the proper function of more than 50 enzymes. Without it, your body would not be able to release energy or make fats from carbohydrates. Vitamin B3 is also used to make sex hormones and other important communicating molecules. People with high levels of vitamin B3 have less throat and mouth cancers. It can also help with cholesterol health.

The usual advice is that you take a daily multivitamin/mineral supplement that will give you at least 20 mg of niacin daily. Higher doses of different forms of vitamin B3 can cause problems. This is true for people with liver disease, diabetes, or gout. It’s also true for anyone with active peptic ulcer disease, cardiac arrhythmias, inflammatory bowel disease, migraine headaches, and alcoholism. 


Great for hair and nails! Biotin is one of the B-complex vitamins. It is needed for four important enzyme reactions in your body. These enzymes cause cell growth and immune system protection against bacterial and fungal infections. If you do not have enough biotin it can lead to depression, a sense of tiredness, and weakness. You may also notice a rash on your face and numbness and tingling of your hands or feet.

Pregnancy can cause a woman’s biotin levels to drop too low. This may cause birth defects. Not enough biotin can also cause problems with your blood sugar. This is especially true if you have diabetes. If you have brittle fingernails or notice increased hair loss, you may be low in biotin.

Biotin is not toxic even in higher doses. Biotin in capsule form is safe to take in doses up to 200 mg/day in people born with problems absorbing biotin. People with normal ability to digest biotin can take doses of up to 5 mg/day without problems. 

Vitamin C (ascorbic acid)

Vitamin C is also known as ascorbic acid. It’s a water-soluble vitamin. Unlike most mammals, humans do not have the ability to make their own vitamin C. You have to get the vitamin C you need through what you eat and in the supplements you take.

Vitamin C is required to make collagen. Vitamin C is great for radiant skin. Collagen is an important part of your blood vessels, tendons, ligaments, and bone. Vitamin C also plays an important role in making up your brain chemistry. Chemical balance is essential for how well you can think. Your moods may even be affected by changes in brain chemistry. Vitamin C is also needed to carry fat into cells for use as energy.

Vitamin C works well as an antioxidant. Even in small amounts vitamin C will protect essential molecules in your body. This includes proteins, lipids (fats), carbohydrates, and the genetic material of your cells. Vitamin C protects your cells from damage caused when you are exposed to toxins or pollutants. Powerful chemicals from smoking or medications can also damage cells.

Your ability to heal after surgery will depend on having proper blood flow to the surgical site. Vitamin C will help you heal from the trauma that is part of your surgery. Vitamin C allows blood vessels to be relaxed and open. You will deliver the most amount of blood to your injured tissues if you have enough vitamin C. Blood flow to injured areas is central to how well we heal. After surgery your circulation will be slowed by inactivity. If you have atherosclerosis or hardening of the arteries, your blood vessels are less able to relax. This adds to the challenge of recovering after an operation.

Adding vitamin C will improve the dilation(opening) of your blood vessels. This is important if you have certain health problems. This includes anyone with atherosclerosis, angina pectoris, congestive heart failure, high cholesterol, or high blood pressure. Improved blood vessel dilation can occur with a dose of 500 mg or more of vitamin C daily. 

Vitamin A

Vitamin A is required for recovery from surgery. It is commonly known as the anti-infective vitamin. It is central to normal functioning of your immune system. Vitamin A is also needed to maintain the integrity and function of your skin and mucosal cells. Mucosal cells are the cells that line body cavities such as your mouth, intestines, and stomach. Vitamin A is important in making white blood cells. These are critical in the immune response that protects you against infection and promotes healing of your injuries.

Vitamin E

Vitamin E is another great skin vitamin. The main function of vitamin E in humans is as an antioxidant. Oxidation damages tissues when free radical ions (unpaired electron in an oxygen atom) are formed in your body. Free radical ions occur during normal function. They also develop when you are exposed to harmful factors like cigarette  smoke  or environmental pollutants. Other foreign chemicals such as food additives can also cause free radicals. Free radical ions will destroy your cell walls. Vitamin E, in the form of mixed tocopherols, is best suited to stop the damage caused by free radicals.

Vitamin E has been shown to improve immune system functions that decline as people age. It helps increase blood flow. It does this by preventing blood clots and relaxing blood vessel walls. 

Beta Carotene

Beta Carotene is converted to vitamin A in the liver as your body needs it. It is a powerful protector against infection. It is an antioxidant that supports your immune system. It also protects your vision. Beta-carotene protects the body from the irritating effects of smoke and other environmental pollutants. It promotes tissue healing. It may be helpful in preventing mouth and stomach ulcers.

Vitamin D / Vitamin D3

Vitamin D is a fat-soluble vitamin needed for normal calcium metabolism. You make vitamin D in your skin when you are in the sun without clothing or sunscreen shielding you. You can also get vitamin D from some foods.

Cells that are dividing rapidly are said to be proliferating. This is important for growth and wound healing. Vitamin D makes sure cell growth occurs properly.

Vitamin D regulates your immune system function during times of stress. Adequate vitamin D levels are important for decreasing the risk of high blood pressure.

If you do not have enough vitamin D you will not absorb enough calcium. Then your body will steal calcium from your bones. This will increase your risk of Osteoporosis and other health problems.

Obesity increases the risk of vitamin D deficiency. Once vitamin D is made in the skin or ingested, it is deposited in body fat stores. Storage makes it less available especially to people with large amounts of body fat.

Osteoporosis has many different causes and not enough vitamin D is one of them. Without enough vitamin D, you will not absorb enough calcium. Decreased vitamin D may lead to bone fractures. In order for vitamin D supplementation to be effective in preserving bone health, it has to be taken along with 1,000 to 1,200 mg/day of calcium.

Medical researchers are discovering that vitamin D is more important, and less toxic than once thought. The importance of vitamin D is causing changes in what we consider a safe and healthy intake. Because sunlight exposure is so different for each one of us, it is impossible to decide on a Recommended Daily Allowance (RDA). Therefore, experts have decided to talk about adequate intake levels. They start by assuming that no vitamin D is being made in the skin. This is based on the idea that people simply do not get outside enough. They don’t get enough sunlight. When they do go outside, they tend to cover up with sunscreen. And they wear clothing that covers most of their body.

Research published since 1997 suggests that vitamin D toxicity is very unlikely in healthy people at intake levels lower than 10,000 IU/day. Some adults are advised to take higher dosages of vitamin D (up to 2000 IUs per day). You may need more if you have a history of malabsorption (e.g., celiac disease, inflammatory bowel disease, cystic fibrosis, gastric bypass surgery).

Monitoring for signs of vitamin D toxicity is recommended for anyone taking more than 4000 IUs per day. Signs of toxicity include gastrointestinal distress (e.g., nausea, vomiting, poor appetite), weakness, weight loss, increased urination, and heart palpitations. 


Iron is required for a number of vital functions, including growth, reproduction, healing, and immune function. You need the right amount of iron for hundreds of proteins and enzymes.

Heme is an iron-containing compound found in many biologically important molecules. Hemoglobin and myoglobin are heme-containing proteins. Hemoglobin has the vital role of carrying oxygen from your lungs to the rest of your body. Myoglobin is the molecule that supplies oxygen to your working muscles. These are needed for you to move and store your oxygen. 


You must have enough copper in your system for normal iron metabolism and red blood cell formation. Anemia is a sign of copper deficiency. Copper is required for you to be able to move iron to your bone marrow for red blood cell formation. 


Calcium is the most common mineral in the human body. About 99 percent of the calcium in your body is found in your bones and teeth. The other one percent is found in your blood and soft tissue. Calcium levels in your blood and body fluids must be kept within a very narrow range for normal physiologic functioning. The functions of calcium are so vital to survival that the body will steal calcium from your bones. It does this to keep blood calcium levels normal when your calcium intake is too low. Although this complex system allows for rapid and tight control of blood calcium levels, it does so by stealing from your skeleton.

Calcium plays many important roles. It is vital in controlling the constriction (closing) and relaxation (opening) of your blood vessels. It also aids proper nerve impulses, muscle contraction, and release of your hormones.

Calcium is necessary for optimal activity of many of your proteins and enzymes. The binding of calcium ions is required to cause your blood to clot when you are injured. Calcium is a key factor for good recovery from any surgery involving your bones.

Only about 30 percent of the calcium in your food is actually absorbed in your digestive tract. You lose a certain amount of calcium in your urine every day. This depends on how much caffeine you drink. Too much or not enough protein in your diet will affect your calcium absorption and the strength of your bones. 


Magnesium plays important roles in the structure and the function of the human body. Over 60 percent of all the magnesium in your body is found in your bones. About 27 percent is found in muscle, while six to seven percent is found in other cells. Magnesium is required by many other nutrients, like vitamin D and calcium, to function properly.

Your system requires magnesium to turn fats and carbohydrates into energy in your cells. Magnesium is needed to create nerve impulses, muscle contractions, and the normal rhythm of your heart. 


Zinc is an essential trace element for all forms of life. Zinc deficiency has recently been recognized by a number of experts as an important public health issue. A diet very high in grains like wheat can cause zinc deficiency.

Nearly 100 different enzymes depend on zinc to complete chemical reactions. Almost all of your tissues use enzymes that require zinc.

You must have enough zinc to keep your immune system healthy. If you don’t have enough zinc, you are more likely to become ill from a number of different infectious bacteria or viruses.

If you are taking iron pills, you may not absorb zinc as well as you should. This may occur if you are taking iron before surgery for your red blood cells. If this applies to you, you should take some extra zinc.

Copper assists in the formation of hemoglobin and red blood cells by increasing iron absorption. It is needed for protein metabolism, cell reproduction, and to make healthy nerve cells. Zinc and copper need to be in proper amounts to each other for each to work well. The recommended ratio of zinc to copper for best function is approximately 8:1, or zinc 30 mg and copper 4 mg. 


Selenium is a trace element that is essential in small amounts to the work of many other nutrients. This includes vitamin C, vitamin E, copper, zinc, and iron. It aids wound healing by regulating cell growth.

Your thyroid gland needs selenium for normal function. Thyroid hormone tells your body how fast to function. If your cells work too slowly, your healing from wounds and your daily tissue repair will not go well.

People who are low in selenium may be more likely to become ill when stressed by difficult events like surgery or exposure to bacteria and viruses. Taking selenium can improve the immune response even in people who have no symptoms of selenium deficiency.

Studies have shown over and over that people who live in areas with low soil selenium and low selenium in their food will have more death from cancer, especially cancer in men.

The usual recommendation for selenium supplementation is 400 mcg/day. 

Chromium (polynicotinate)

Chromium (polynicotinate) is a nutritionally essential mineral. It acts to support your blood sugar and insulin functions. It also helps with your fat and protein metabolism. Normal insulin function is required to provide cellular energy and to prevent diabetes. It is used in many weightloss products. 

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