Vitamins and minerals are required for the body to function properly. Each day we need to eat a balanced diet that supplies us with the sufficient amount of vitamins and minerals to remain healthy. Our diet should contain grains, vegetables, fruits, milk, meat and beans. The portion of each varies depending on our age and gender. The USDA Web site publishes the Recommended Dietary Allowance (RDA) for daily dose requirement of each vitamin.

Vitamins are divided into two groups: fat-soluble and water-soluble. Fat-soluble vitamins can be stored in the body for up to two years. Water-soluble vitamins are used immediately and then excreted from the body in urine.

As part of the nursing process, assess the patient for vitamin deficiencies and determine what caused the deficiency. Some deficiencies are caused by changes in the body that affect absorption of vitamins. Other deficiencies are due to a poor or an unbalanced diet. After administering prescribed vitamin therapy, the patient should be educated about the importance of eating well-balanced meals and taking vitamin supplements if necessary.

Minerals are inorganic substances that the body uses for blood cells, tissues, and to stimulate enzymes to cause a catabolic reaction in the body.

In the next chapter, we'll examine the balancing act of fluids and electrolytes and how they maintain equilibrium. We'll also see how to use fluid and electrolyte therapies to restore the equilibrium if they become imbalanced.

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