Why women popping Vitamin B12, D, calcium and iron supplements casually do more harm than good to themselves

Written by Dr Parinita Kalita

The trend of self-medication among women — especially since they are told that they need some supplements once they have turned 30 like vitamins, minerals, iron, calcium, and proteins — is becoming increasingly popular as they seek quick fixes for their health concerns. However, this trend can lead to harmful consequences if not approached with caution. It is crucial to understand that not all supplements are suitable for everyone. Supplements should only be taken if there is a deficiency in certain vitamins and minerals and a healthy diet should provide most of the nutrients the body needs.

Some women even believe that taking supplements will make up for their unhealthy food choices and help them lose weight. However, this is not true. Supplements cannot replace the benefits of a healthy diet and regular exercise. Moreover, taking supplements without proper guidance can lead to serious health problems. Here are a few commonly used supplements that women need to know about:

Vitamins: Excessive consumption of vitamins and minerals, such as vitamin B12 or D3, can lead to intoxication, toxicity and harm your health. Usually, most women can up their vitamin D levels by spending brief periods of about 10 to 15 minutes in the early morning sun. When healthy pre- and post-menopausal women take vitamin D (up to 400 international units, or IU), it does not necessarily prevent them from breaking bones, according to a US Preventive Services Task Force recommendation in 2018. In healthy people, vitamin D blood levels higher than 100 nanograms per millilitre can trigger extra calcium absorption — and lead to muscle pain, mood disorders, abdominal pain and kidney stones. It may also raise the risk of heart attack and stroke, according to findings of the Cleveland Clinic. Popping Vitamin D supplements on your own if you are on medication related to other health conditions could be hazardous as they can interact with each other and cause complications.

We think that multivitamins will do us a world of good but research has shown that they do little or nothing to protect you against cancers or heart disease. In fact, one study in ‘JAMA Internal Medicine,’ which examined data from nearly 40,000 women older than 19, found that women who took supplements had a higher risk of early death than women who didn’t take them. And remember folic acid is only meant for women who are planning a pregnancy.

Iron: Certain supplements, such as iron, can interfere with the absorption of other medications, such as antibiotics or thyroid hormone. Also, all cases of anaemia do not require iron supplementation. Excess iron can harm patients with certain medical conditions such as liver disease or hemochromatosis besides causing constipation.

Calcium: Women tend to use this supplement most casually and liberally. Yet excess calcium can lead to the formation of kidney stones, harden the arteries in the heart and increase the risk of atherosclerosis. According to protocol, more than 2,500 mg per day for adults between the ages of 19 and 50, and more than 2,000 mg per day for individuals 51 and over, can lead to problems. Ensure you are taking enough calcium in your food as research shows that it is better absorbed through food than through supplements.

It is essential to consult a doctor before taking any supplements if you feel weak or experience symptoms that you think may be related to a deficiency. Blood tests and other examinations can help determine what supplements you may need and how much is safe to consume.

Self-medication with supplements can be dangerous, as taking the wrong type or dose can lead to serious health problems. It is essential to remember that supplements are not a substitute for a healthy diet and lifestyle. A diet rich in fruits, vegetables, whole grains, lean proteins, and healthy fats can provide most of the nutrients your body needs. Regular exercise and adequate sleep are also important for overall health and well-being.

The market is flooded with supplements, and it is easy to get confused about which one to take. It is crucial to read the labels and understand what each contains. Some may contain harmful substances that can harm your health. Therefore, it is crucial to buy supplements from a trusted source and do so with the help of a certified doctor.