While we are trying to live our best lives and be as healthy as possible, there seems to be a constant onslaught of information (and misinformation) about what we should be putting into our bodies. Passionate about treating the individual rather than just dolling out medication, Ballito GP Dr Melize de Villiers chatted to us about what vitamins and minerals we should (or shouldn’t) be taking.
If you and your family are eating a wholesome, balanced diet, then chances are you don’t need to supplement with anything. But life does happen and there are factors that can get in the way of ensuring our bodies absorb all we need from the food we do (or don’t) eat.
Probably the most important thing to remember, says Dr Melize, is that supplementation with vitamins and minerals should be specific to each individual. “Just like when you take other medications, there are a number of factors to consider. Your history, age, lifestyle and diet all play a part. Are you on chronic medication? Do you live a fast life with plenty of takeaways or are you vegan or banting? Are you sporty and active or do you have food allergies?”
That said, there are very basic and ‘general’ guidelines that can help you understand what your body needs during each phase of your life. This, together with understanding your own individual circumstances, can help you understand what vitamins you can take to help supplement your diet.
TODDLERS AND YOUNG KIDS:
This age group are often exposed to many new viruses at school and playgroups that they have to fight off, so a good multivitamin with Vitamin C is a good idea. They are often fussy eaters at this stage, so pay attention to what they aren’t eating and supplement accordingly. They can be iron deficient and if they suffer with concentration problems may need omegas. Vitamin D is also important (this isn’t found in breast milk). Kids are often on exclusion diets (due to allergies) at this age, so supplement if a food group (like dairy, seafood, etc) is being omitted. Food tip: Hidden veggies (in mince or chicken dishes) for the win! Also make a yoghurt, small sweet cheese or frozen fruit a dessert treat!
This is a busy age! Kids often have long days at school with sport and lots of studying. They need lots of energy and brain power. Good supplements would be: vitamin B, Omegas, fish oil and iron. If they struggle with acne try adding zinc. If they’re very sporty, remember to replace lost minerals like sodium and potassium (through sweating). Food tip: a good breakfast is important at this age – oat bowl with added seeds and nuts and banana, a boiled egg with a glass of orange juice. For school, add a tin of fish or cottage cheese. If all you have time for is 2-minute-noodles – just add a tin of fish to that!
MIDLIFE (20’S TO 40’S)
You’ve usually got well established diets and eating habits by this stage of your life and know what you do and don’t eat and can supplement accordingly. A general multivitamin is a good idea and important to remember folic acid for women (these are your fertile years).
LATER IN LIFE (OVER 50)
In this age group it is often more about replacing than supplementing. Older folks are usually on medications that can cause deficiencies, so it’s important to take that into consideration. Calcium, magnesium and vitamin D are very important to prevent osteopenia and osteoporosis. Vitamin B, fish oils and omegas are good for brain function and memory (and to prevent diseases like Alzheimer’s) and vitamin E, zinc and folate are good for skin and hair. Vitamin E is also good for hormonal changes during menopause. Food tip: A smoothie is a great way to get lots of vitamins and minerals in one go – try one with banana, milk, peanut butter, almonds, chia seeds and full cream yoghurt.
COVID-19 VITAMIN REGIME
If you have been diagnosed with Covid-19 and are managing it at home, Dr Melize suggests the following regime: vitamin D (4000u daily), vitamin C (1000mg twice daily), zinc (100mg twice daily), vitamin B (once daily) to help fight the viral load. If you want to take a ‘preventative’ dose, in case you do get ill, she suggests a basic vitamin C, zinc and vitamin D regime (with the usual daily doses).
MEET THE DOCTOR …
Originally from a small town in the South Coast, Dr Melize has worked in practices all over South Africa and overseas. She went into private practice 10 years ago and says she became a general practitioner because she loves people and loves to chat! She settled in Ballito six years ago and recently founded the Health Matters practice. “I love kids, teens and the elderly. I love the whole family. I love that my normal day can include anything from a broken bone to talking about mental health or treating a common cold.” Passionate about treating the ‘entire individual’ rather than just their symptoms, Dr Melize believes most illnesses have a physical, mental, emotional and social component. “This is why our team includes a physio, psychologist, life coach, etc. People need a healthy diet and exercise and also need to spend time with friends and family and do the things they love. This is how they reach optimum health. A tablet is only the beginning.”
Text: Leah Shone