Health & Wellness Hub

What Are Vitamins and How Do They Work?

Jun 8, 2023 3 mins reading time

Brush up on your knowledge of vitamins, including how to tell if you have a vitamin deficiency and which vitamin supplements work best.

Vitamins and minerals are essential for keeping your body healthy and functioning.

The body constantly has thousands of chemical reactions going on in each cell – working hard to support everything from brain health to heart health, eye health and healthy, strong bones. The cells in your body are continually processing the proteins, fats and carbohydrates you get from the food you eat. And vitamins and minerals play an essential part in those chemical reactions. 

Without consuming vitamins as part of a healthy, balanced diet, essential bodily functions cannot take place. 

Many people can get all the vitamins and minerals they need from a healthy diet. For those who can’t, supplements can help fill in the gaps.

Different Types of Vitamins: Fat Soluble and Water Soluble

Vitamins can be grouped into two categories – fat soluble and water soluble. 

Fat-soluble vitamins are stored in your liver, fatty tissue and muscles and are more easily absorbed by the body. The four fat-soluble vitamins are:

Water-soluble vitamins are not stored in the body. You need to consume these vitamins regularly via your diet or a supplement to avoid becoming depleted or deficient. 

The only exception here is B12, which is stored in the liver. 

The water-soluble vitamins are:

What Happens When You Don’t Get Enough Vitamins?

Different vitamins serve different purposes in the body. And dietary deficiencies can occur if you’re not getting enough of a particular vitamin or mineral. 

Typical reasons for dietary deficiency include a poor diet, a busy lifestyle and illness.

Vitamin D deficiency can impact dietary calcium absorption, and a diet deficient in calcium can lead to osteoporosis in later life.

Meanwhile, vitamin B deficiency may cause: 

  • fatigue, weakness or a general lack of energy

  • angular stomatitis or mouth ulcers

How to Tell if You Have a Dietary Vitamin Deficiency

The best way to check if you have a vitamin deficiency is to get a blood test from your doctor.

You may be more likely to need supplement support if you are:

  • following a restricted diet (e.g. vegan or vegetarian)

  • pregnant or breastfeeding – you may require additional nutrients

  • suffering from an illness – this may cause depletion

How Vitamin Supplements can Support Health

Multivitamins and vitamin supplements may help to provide additional support when you are not getting enough essential nutrients from your diet. 

People who are not predisposed to dietary deficiency in vitamin D, or those who get adequate sun exposure, for example, may not need to take any extra vitamin D.  As a fat-soluble vitamin, it will naturally be stored in the body.

To get the full benefits of vitamins, it’s important to avoid combinations that do not interact well. 

Iron and zinc compete for absorption, as do iron and calcium, so it is best to avoid taking these in combination. To learn more about combinations that do and don't work well, read our article, "What Vitamins You Shouldn't Take Together."

Always read the label and follow the directions for use.

Support Your Health and Wellbeing

Supplementing your diet with additional vitamins and minerals is a smart policy when it comes to supporting your general health and wellbeing. 

It’s a good idea to have a blood test occasionally to see where you’re at and whether your body needs a bit of a boost. See your healthcare professional for further advice.

Explore more tips and information about what vitamins you should be taking and the function of vitamins on our website.

Always read the label and follow the directions for use.

Other Articles

supplements and powders on a counter

What Health Supplements do You Need?

fruits and vitamin supplements

13 Essential Vitamins and their Functions

What Vitamins You Shouldn't Take Together