The Scary Things That Happen to Your Body When You Suddenly Forget to Take Your Vitamins and Supplements

Different people take different supplements for various reasons. It could be anything from taking additional vitamin A to keep your skin looking its best, vitamin B for an energy boost or vitamin C to keep your immune system strong.

Whilst it is always recommended that you ensure you’re getting vitamins and nutrients through a healthy and well-balanced diet, many people rely on additional vitamins to make sure that they are as healthy as they can be.

So what would happen if you suddenly stopped taking your additional intake of supplements?

Would you suddenly become weak and tired? How soon would you feel the impact of missing these supplements?

Dr Daniel Fenton of London Doctors Clinic is here to explain everything that you need to know.

Do I actually need to be taking additional supplements?

Whilst there has been much research to suggest that taking additional supplements has little to no effect on your body, there are a few types of people who should consider taking additional supplements:

‑ Those who are truly deficient in certain vitamins – and by this, we mean, people who have been diagnosed by a medical professional as being deficient

‑ Those who have specific dietary requirements which may mean that they don’t get all of the necessary vitamins and nutrients through their diet alone

‑ People who take supplements for specific conditions or ailments. For example, you may have a balanced diet but might take additional supplements for other reasons, such as thinning hair

What happens if you stop taking supplements suddenly?

If you forget to take a supplement for one day you generally will not have any side effects, simply take one as soon as you remember.

This applies to all supplements as missing one day, regardless of the vitamin, is unlikely to cause any substantial harm – providing you are taking them for a non-medical reason.

However, if you stop taking supplements for a prolonged period of time, and do not make up for the missing vitamins and nutrients in your diet, you may experience some side effects. If your body does not get enough of the right vitamins and supplements you may be more prone to illnesses, a weakened immune system and exhaustion. If your body is starved of all the right nutrients for a prolonged length of time, these symptoms can progress and fatigue and lack of energy could be precursors to more serious conditions, such as depression.

How long after you stop taking supplements do you feel the health effects?

If you have been taking a supplement for a true deficiency, i.e iron supplements, it takes approximately 12 weeks to see noticeable differences in your iron levels on blood tests due to the life cycle of red blood cells. However, it is not uncommon to notice a difference with a few weeks of stopping the supplement. As a general rule of thumb, noticeable differences are seen within weeks to months.

If you were simply taking a general multivitamin or supplement without having any known deficiency, you are unlikely to notice a major difference if you stop them, as your blood levels will typically be far in excess of what you require. A classic example of this is B12, normal levels range between 160-925 ug/L, on supplements, you may often have a level reported as in excess of 1000ug/L as this is where the lab stops measuring. In this circumstance, it will take several months for your B12 level to fall, and even when it does, you will still be well within normal range so are unlikely to notice any ill health effects.

What should you do if you want to stop taking supplements?

If you are taking a supplement for a true deficiency, such as a low Iron, B12, folic acid or Vitamin D, then you should consult your doctor before making any changes.

If however, you have been taking general vitamin supplements, it is absolutely fine to just stop! If you have a healthy, balanced diet you are very likely to get everything you require from a good home cooked meal, no supplements required. The only exception to this rule is Vitamin D, the sunshine vitamin, do consider having your Vitamin D level checked and top it up if it is low.

Topping up on vitamins, particularly iron, vitamins B12 and D and folic acid, can make most people feel better, though, even then, they’re not 100% necessary. For the majority of people, vitamins and minerals can be maintained by a healthy and balanced diet.

Dr Daniel Fenton is Clinical Director at London Doctors Clinic.

Amy Smith

With a degree in English Literature from the University of Cambridge, Amy is a freelance writer and columnist. At YCB Magazine, she writes about all things lifestyle, travel & wellness.