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Ask a Pharmacist – Catherine Flynn

Life Pharmacy’s Managing Pharmacist Catherine Flynn answers some of your most frequently asked questions about vitamins – featured in the Irish Independent’s ‘Mother & babies’ supplement 1 August 2018.

Why is it necessary to give my baby Vitamin D?

Medical evidence in Ireland shows that children and mothers have low levels of vitamin D which can lead to weak bones and in severe cases rickets (deformity of the bones such as bow legs and spine curves) in children and osteomalacia (softening of the bones which can lead to fractures from minor injuries) in adults. Over 20 cases of rickets have been reported in infants and toddlers at two Dublin hospitals in the last four to five years.

Our bodies can produce vitamin D from sunlight, however it is not possible for babies to get the amount of vitamin D they require from sunlight as their skin should not be exposed to direct sunshine. Their food (formula milk, breastmilk or solid food) may not contain enough vitamin D and between 0-12 months babies develop very quickly and have a greater need of vitamin D to form strong bones.

For these reasons it is recommended that all babies from birth to 12 months should be given 5 micrograms of vitamin D3 daily and it is important not to exceed this amount. These products are available from your pharmacy in liquid form and should only contain vitamin D3. Natures Aid produce a product with only two ingredients – vitamin D3 mixed with coconut oil. This is important to parents who want to limit the amount of additives and preservative that their babies are exposed to. These drops can be directly into the mouth or mixed with food or juice. There are a number of products on the market and it is important to be sure that you are giving the correct dose once daily. Your pharmacist will be very happy to advise you.

Of course, all adults could benefit from vitamin D supplements to support general good health, growth and strong bones. I know we’re having a wonderful summer here, but generally, much of the Irish population lack this important vitamin, as it is made in the skin by exposure to sunshine. I would recommend taking a daily supplement such as Quest Vit D3 or Natures Aid Vitamin D3.


Why do I need Folic Acid in pregnancy?

Folic acid plays a very important role for foetal development as it can significantly reduce the risk of neural tube defects (NTDs) such as Spina Bifida. It is recommended that all women planning a pregnancy should take 400 micrograms of folic ccid daily while they are trying to get pregnant and during the first 12 weeks of pregnancy. This is the period of time when the baby’s spine is undergoing significant development.

Foods that contain folic acid are leafy green vegetables, brown rice, granary bread and breakfast cereals, many of which are supplemented with folic acid. While it is important to eat plenty of these during pregnancy it would be almost impossible to get enough folic acid from food so it is important to get the right amount by taking a supplement which is available without prescription from your pharmacy. An over-the-counter supplement such as Natures Aid Folic Acid or Clonfolic can be easily found in all good pharmacies.

Some women need a higher dose of folic acid (5 milligrams) daily if they have a higher risk of NTD’s. These would include pregnancies where either partner has a NTD or a family history of NTDs, if a previous pregnancy was affected by a NTD, if you have diabetes or are taking anti-epileptic medications. This higher strength folic acid is only available on medical prescription.


What are probiotics?

There has been a lot of discussion about probiotics over the last few years. They are essentially “friendly bacteria” normally found in our gut and necessary for good health. Our gut digests all the food we take into our bodies and normally has a healthy balance of bacteria which help to digest our food. If this balance is upset, for example by illness, stress, allergies or certain medications, this imbalance can be linked to inflammatory bowel disease, atopic disease such as eczema, fatigue, joint inflammation and food allergies. This puts all our systems under stress so we are morelikely to succumb to infection. So, essentially probiotics rebalance our system.

Proven Adult 25 Billion is a probiotic which we recommend for stomach and bowel conditions and also during and after a course of antibiotics. It is taken once or twice daily and is supplied in a pack of 30. Quest Biotix is a range of products combining probiotics with other nutrients to address specific issues e.g. IBS, poor immune system, recurring urinary infections, detox and general wellbeing. Athletes can have lowered immunity after vigorous demands have been placed on their bodies. Quest ImmuneBiotix supports the immune system and general wellbeing helping to fight off colds and increasing energy levels. It contains selenium, zinc and copper which aid muscle repair.

Catherine Flynn’s Life Pharmacy is located in Ennis, Co. Clare, where she has been providing prescriptions services and heath advice to her customers since 1992. The Pharmacy added a Health and Wellness section twelve months ago in response to a growing interest in wellness and to provide its customers with a more comprehensive range of products in a dedicated area of the pharmacy. Your Pharmacist is always available for advice on safe use of medicine and supplements.

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