Do vitamin supplements just produce “expensive urine”? Some variation of this question comes up every now and then. What people usually mean by this question is that taking vitamin supplements may not be effective, that the contents of the supplement may just be eliminated by the body, either in the urine or fecal excretions, without having any benefits. In some cases, the answer is yes! But let’s elaborate on this. There are a few circumstances where this can happen:
- The supplement is formulated in a way that does not allow it to dissolve fully in order to be absorbed.
- The supplement dissolves properly, but the forms of vitamins and minerals used in the supplement are not ideal for absorption and utilization by the body.
- The supplement is well produced and formulated, but the person taking the supplement is unable to absorb it due to an underlying health condition.
- The supplement is great, the person absorbs it, but their body doesn’t need it.
Of course, there may be other scenarios I haven’t listed here but, as these are some common ones, let’s explore them for now. The answer to scenarios #1 and #2 is to get a good quality supplement. This means that the capsule or tablet is make is a way that will allow is to dissolve and breakdown fully in the digestive tract. This also means that the supplement has a minimal amount of fillers and added ingredients that may not be necessary. A good formula will include forms of vitamins and minerals that are best absorbed and utilized and may also include added nutrients that are known to help the absorption and function of the main nutrients found in the supplement. Based on your current requirements and state of health, a naturopathic doctor can help you to select a supplement that is effective and appropriate.
Scenario #3 is an important one to address because it can bring to light certain health concerns that need attention. If a person consistently takes the right supplements but does not notice improvements (e.g. levels seen on blood test results never go up), it’s important to explore the cause. There are various conditions that could potentially result in malabsorption of nutrients, whether from food or supplement sources (e.g. inflammatory bowel disease, deficiency in certain chemicals needed to absorb vitamins optimally). Once a potential cause is determined, it can be dealt with appropriately and/or the person may be encouraged to explore different avenues for supplementation if needed. These may include different forms of injections, for example.
The human body, when it’s working right, is very good at knowing what it needs and at regulating what stays and what goes. In scenario #4, the supplement is taken in, but depending on the body’s requirements, a portion of the supplement’s contents may be eliminated in the urine (or via other means). The body’s requirements can be influenced by a variety of factors including age, sex, weight, dietary intake, state of health, underlying conditions, past supplement use, etc. If the body has sufficient stores of certain nutrients, it may eliminate the excess taken in. Furthermore, the body can only use up a certain dose at a time, supplements may need to be split up throughout the day to make sure they are used efficiently; excessive dosing may also result in elimination of excess in the urine. This is often seen with water-soluble vitamins, as these can easily be eliminated in the urine. One such example is B vitamins and the bright yellow (almost fluorescent) urine that results when the excess is eliminated. This does not mean that the entire supplement has gone to waste! It may mean that you have sufficiency in certain vitamins and your body is working well at monitoring and managing your levels. What a great thing to have a gauge to help regulate the body’s stores and prevent a potential overdose!
Now, vitamin supplements are not for everyone. Not every patient leaves my office with a recommendation for a multivitamin, far from it! First, patients are encouraged to get what they need through their diet. Eating a well-balanced, nutrient-dense diet, rich in fruits and vegetables is step one. When vitamin supplements are needed, either to address a deficiency, treat a condition or supplement what the diet is providing, it’s important to talk to a naturopathic doctor about choosing a good quality supplement and to take it in the right way to get the most out of it. When done right, vitamin supplements can do wonders for your health and wellness!