Updated 05 May 2011

Supplement and vitamin FAQs

With so many supplements, vitamin and mineral products on the market, how do you know which ones to take, and when?

Maintaining good health just makes sense, and supplementing your diet with necessary nutrients forms part of a balanced programme.  But with so many vitamin and mineral products on the market, how do you know which ones to take, how much of each, and when is the best time?  The Vitamin expert answers your most pressing questions on supplements here.


  • A good multivitamin and mineral supplement:  there’s one for everyone – kids, adults, women, men, over-60s – you name it! This gives you a good overall base of nutrients. For some people this may be all they need, but it is often helpful to supplement with the following 2:

  • Vitamin B Complex: a good Vitamin B complex will give you the energy needed for a busy day and is essential for coping with stress. All the B vitamins are all responsible for energy metabolism and supporting the brain and nervous system. Because of today’s high-pressured lifestyle, be it at work, school or as a home-maker, most of us can do with extra B vitamins, especially as the body can’t store them so we need to take in enough every day.

  • Omega 3 fatty acids: it is very difficult to get enough omega 3 fatty acids in our daily diet. To do so, we would need to eat oily fish AT LEAST 3 times a week, which most people are unable to do. (‘Oily fish’ includes herring, mackerel, salmon, tuna, snoek, pilchards and sardines.) These are essential fatty acids, so-called because our bodies can’t make them, so we must get them from our diets. Omega 3 fatty acids form building blocks for brain cells so theyhelp with stress, depression, anxiety, concentration and memory. They also combat high cholesterol and boost healthy cholesterol (High Density Lipoprotein), support the immune system, protect mucus membranes that line the digestive, respiratory and reproductive systems, help with moisture balance in skin and eyes, are needed for healthy skin, hair and nails.

  • A multivitamin and mineral supplement specially formulated to support hair, nail and skin health. You can, if you wish, take this alongside most general multivitamin supplements.

  • Omega 3 & 6 fatty acids as these are very important for hair, skin and nails. They help with the moisture balance in the skin. Deficiency is often implicated when there are very brittle nails or acne. Not only that, they are also for brain and nervous system function, immune support, and good health in general.

  • If you are very stressed and busy, and/or are vegetarian, you will benefit from an additional Vitamin B complex. Not only are these important for healthy hair, skin and nails, they are also needed to help you cope with stress, and for memory, concentration and energy levels.

  • Sometimes, iron deficiency anaemia can cause problems with this, but then you would also be tired, weak and has pale skin, and/or mucus membranes in your eyes and mouth, and will need a blood test to establish this.

  • If you do not eat a calcium-rich diet (dairy products or calcium-enriched dairy replacements, dark green and leafy vegetables and tinned fish with bones), you may also need extra calcium and magnesium. Remember: if your nails are showing weakness due to lack of calcium, you could be at risk for osteoporosis, particularly if you are female, over- or underweight, do not exercise, do not go in the sun, smoke or drink excessive alcohol.

  • Omega 3 & 6  Essential fatty acids (Omega 3 & 6) are important for hormones, and for general health. They also help with stress, and are important when you do fall pregnant because they are needed for the baby’s brain and eye development. 1 – 2 capsules daily after meals.
  • A multivitamin for pregnant women is important because it gives you the extra nutrients you need to get your body healthier. Also, this one will be safe to keep taking when you fall pregnant, and also while breastfeeding – it has enough folic acid in it (an important vitamin to help prevent spina bifida). Take 2 capsules daily after meals.
  • Brewer’s Yeast: This contains B vitamins which are important to help you deal with stress. If you are stressed, this can make it a bit harder to fall pregnant because of the powerful effect it has on hormones, and the body in general. This supplement will also be safe to keep taking when pregnant. Take 4 – 6 tablets daily.

  • Omega 3 & 6 concentrate: Essential fatty acids (Omega 3 & 6) are important for hormones, and for general health. They also help with stress, and are important when you do fall pregnant because they are needed for the baby’s brain and eye development. 1 – 2 capsules daily after meals.
  • Zinc: Zinc is a mineral required for sperm production, as well as testosterone production. It also keeps sperm healthy.
  • Vitamin B Complex: As with the Brewer’s Yeast above – this is just a higher strength supplement.
  • Multivitamin – contains ginseng. Although there isn’t a lot of research there are indications that Ginseng, a Chinese herb, can help support male fertility levels. It also contains a range of other nutrients that support men’s health in general.

  • Vitamin B Complex: Important for brain function, energy levels and dealing with stress. B vitamins are also needed when feeling moody, depressed, irritable and weepy.

  • Evening Primrose Oil: Omega 6 fatty acids in the EPO help to balance hormones. EPO has been shown to help reduce PMS and PMS-related breast tenderness, etc.

  • Salmon Oil: Omega 3 fatty acids in Salmon oil are anti-inflammatory and can help with breast tenderness as well as ‘period pain’ and headaches. Further, they form building blocks for brain cells, nourish and support the nervous system and have been shown to help with depression.

  • Calcium and Magnesium: This can be helpful if you struggle with ‘period pains’ and headaches.

  • Green tea: If you’re really struggling with water retention, especially while you wait for the supplements to balance out your system, consider drinking green tea as this helps to get rid of excess water.


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