When you suffer a brain injury, you just want someone to put you back together again. But just as Humpty Dumpty would out in the nursery rhyme, it’s not that easy. Medical techniques are always advancing, but despite this, understanding of the brain is still limited. Therefore, there isn’t a quick fix. But as we hunt for solutions, we can find ourselves tempted to try almost anything in an attempt to get life, as we knew it, back.
We all know that a good varied diet which includes your daily recommended doses of vitamins and minerals is essential to anybody's health. However, I understand that some brain injury survivors may find that they become deficient in some nutrients because their body isn’t absorbing them properly. Or it can be difficult to maintain a good diet when cooking has become more challenging as a result of the injury, and so more convenience foods are being relied upon. In turn, this can cause problems and affect the overall health of a brain injury survivor, as well as hamper their recovery process.
I have seen that there are a number of companies offering multivitamins which are aimed at improving brain function. These can be expensive and I would question if they are necessary. Your doctor will always advise you on what you need, so taking these “throw everything at it, including the kitchen sink,” pills strikes me as superfluous. Multivitamins are assuming you need all these extra nutrients, so in my view, many that are included probably aren’t what you currently need, therefore they are adding nothing. But it’s not just me who questions how useful multivitamins are. The National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE) does not recommend any multivitamin supplements at all, yet still, plenty of people do take them.
In the UK and the EU, there are clear laws which dictate what claims a product can make. That is fine if you are purchasing them from your local pharmacy or health food shop. However, with the internet, you can access products from other countries, which may have less stringent rules. Thus, some of the details you read may not be as reliable as we are used to with products of this nature in the UK.
I have come across products which market directly to brain injury survivors by claiming they can support the brain in the recovery process following a Traumatic Brain Injury, or those fighting Alzheimer’s and Dementia. These products suggest that their multivitamins are designed to support neurological health.
That is a compelling argument for anyone keen to have better cognitive function. Naturally, some people need vitamin supplements and extra minerals to help with a specific need, but the idea that everyone needs exactly the same product seems ludicrous. The argument against multivitamins within the medical arena is that it’s likely as an individual you are getting the majority of each nutrient in sufficient quantities from your diet. A lengthy NHS report that was put together in 2011 explains:
“It’s also worth bearing in mind that vitamins are either water soluble or fat soluble. Those that are water soluble – the eight B vitamins and vitamin C – are used rapidly by the body, and the excess is excreted rather than stored. High dose supplements containing water-soluble vitamins could well be a waste of money as you could literally end up flushing their expensive contents down the toilet.”
On the other hand, fat-soluble vitamins – A, D, E and K – are stored in the liver and fat tissues. Amounts in excess of what is needed are more likely to accumulate in the body and could lead to hypervitaminosis (vitamin poisoning).”
“Excessive amounts of vitamin A can have side effects such as abdominal pain, weight loss, vomiting, blurred vision, irritability and headaches,” says Emma Williams, a nutritional scientist with the British Nutrition Foundation.” See nhs.uk/news/2011/05May/Documents/BtH_supplements.pdf for the full report
Essentially, there may be some vitamins or minerals that you need to top up on, but your GP can run blood tests to tell you exactly what you need. I personally would not want to take additional risks by taking needlessly high doses of supplements without consulting my GP. I feel that you should not be fooled into thinking just because it’s all natural that it’s not going to do any harm.
I have seen some products that seem more expensive than regular multivitamins. In fact, even in supermarkets, you can see that certain branded products are much more expensive than own brand products, yet they appear to be aiming for the same result.
For me, this feels like I’d be gambling with my money. I personally would go to my GP and let them guide me rather than my own guesswork.
Nothing in this blog should be taken as providing medical advice or recommendations. Please always consult your doctor for medical advice and before taking any medication or supplement. Any opinions expressed in this article are of the author and not CFG Law Limited.