As a naturopathic doctor, I've found that the majority of my patients think they're getting all their nutrients from their diet when, in reality, this is often not the case.
Years of agricultural practices consisting of toxic chemical usage have created poor mineral quality in our soils and nutrient-poor staple foods. Furthermore, the traditional American diet consists of significantly more processed foods than previous generations. As there is no one-size-fits-all and many low-quality vitamins contain fillers, sugars, dyes, heavy metals, and preservatives. So, finding a quality multivitamin that can supplement your deficiencies can be hard. However, it’s not impossible.
The Multivitamin Debate
The million-dollar question for most concerned patients regarding multivitamins is, “Should I take them?” While there have been a number of studies on the benefits of multivitamins, most have not been rigorous enough. Many only ask if the participant is taking a multivitamin and don’t account for quality, dose, or what combination of vitamins are in the multi. In other words, the “multivitamin debate” is primarily due to the numerous incomplete or inconclusive studies based on poorly planned research controls.
Some research studies have pointed to the potential for negative impact when taking multivitamins. This idea is most likely because cheap multivitamins often include binders, fillers, and additives such as dyes like yellow #5, hydrogenated oils, and metals such as titanium dioxide, talc, magnesium silicate, and other potentially harmful heavy metals. While these metals and chemical compounds may help bind the pills together or add color and flavor, they are actually creating more toxins for the body to fight off than good they’re doing.1
Who Should Take A Multivitamin —and Why?
With the vast selection of food lining American supermarket aisles, it’s hard to believe that 9 out of 10 Americans have nutritional deficiencies.2 While the right multivitamin can be beneficial to our health, it is necessary to remember that multivitamins are meant to supplement a well-balanced diet, not replace it.
In addition to consuming less nutrient-rich foods than our grandparents, a rise in gastrointestinal issues and prescription drug use in the U.S. has led to difficulties in nutrient absorption and vitamin depletion. Anyone with intestinal challenges will have problems with nutrient absorption of fat-soluble vitamins A, C, D, E, and vitamin K, 3,4
Multivitamins for Men vs. Women
There isn't much of a difference in the type of multivitamin that would be prescribed to men vs. women since both groups can have complications with bone health and immune system deficiencies as they age. Pregnant women, women trying to conceive, or those who are breastfeeding should be on a high-quality prenatal multivitamin. A good prenatal contains iron and methylated folate, which is the most absorbable version of folate. Unless your doctor has diagnosed you with an iron deficiency, either due to a plant-based diet or health-related condition, you should avoid multivitamins with iron, as too much can cause cardiac issues.
Multivitamins for a Compromised Immune System
Consistent stress in an individual's life can wreak havoc on the immune system. For patients who have stressful lifestyles or low energy, methylated B vitamins can help support optimal health by donating 5-MTHF to the methylation pathway. For patients with compromised immunity, I recommend free-radical fighters such as vitamins A, C, E, and D to aid in the proper functioning of their immune system.
What Should You Look for in a Multivitamin?
A high-quality multivitamin should cover basic nutritional needs. The following is a list of the minerals and vitamins that the average adult should look for when shopping for a multivitamin:
- Calcium citrate: The most absorbable version of calcium
- Vitamin D3: At least 100 IUs for bone health
- Antioxidants: Vitamin A, C, D, E, and selenium help protect the immune system
- Methylated B vitamins: The most absorbable version of B vitamins
- Minerals: Vitamin K2, biotin, magnesium, potassium, boron, choline, and chromium
How to Determine Quality of Multivitamins
For a high-quality multivitamin, you want to look at absorbable ingredients. Here are some questions you can ask your physician or local pharmacist when picking out a multivitamin:
- Does it have the efficient, absorbable ingredients in it?
- Does it have calcium citrate?
- Is the multivitamin brand using vitamin D3 instead of vitamin D, since vitamin D3 is more absorbable?
- Does it include the methylated B vitamins instead of regular B vitamins?
- Is there iron in it?
- Does it have vitamin K2 instead of vitamin K1?
A high-quality multivitamin should also have at least 50mg of each mentioned mineral and vitamin. Anything less than 50mg is not enough to have an effect. A high-quality vitamin should also be void of any artificial colorings, as well as sugars, dyes, preservatives, heavy metals, and fillers.
Related Topic: Benefits of Adding A & D to K
Consult Your Health Care Practitioner
It's best to consult your healthcare practitioner regarding multivitamins if you're thinking about taking them. In fact, most doctors take multivitamins themselves. In my practice as a naturopathic doctor, I generally conduct a one-and-a-half-hour interview with all my new patients. Only after completing a thorough history of their health issues, diet, lifestyle, and prescription drug use can I determine which vitamins would be beneficial in their specific situation.
A High-Quality Multivitamin Can Supplement a Nutrient-Deficient Diet
With over 90% of the American population being nutrient deficient due to poor dietary habits, incorporating a high-quality vitamin into your diet can help fill in the gaps. Choosing the right multivitamin means being conscious of the ingredients and opting for the best ingredients that meet the recommended dosage. If you are concerned about what type of formulation will work best for you, consult your physician, who can provide the right combination of vitamins and minerals to support you on the path towards optimal health.
Dr. Deborah Wiancek, naturopathic doctor from the Riverwalk Natural Health Clinic in Edwards is a featured doctor in The Idiot's Guide to Natural Remedies. The book was published January 09' and is now available at your local book stores and Amazon.com. In the book Dr. Wiancek goes over natural remedies used for asthma, bladder infections, ear infections, endometrosis and first aid. She also talks about food allergies.
1 "Multivitamin/Mineral Supplements: Rationale and Safety… - NCBI.” 2017. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/27553772. Accessed October 1, 2019.
2 “CDC’s Second Nutrition Report… - CDC.” 2012. https://www.cdc.gov/nutritionreport/. Accessed October 1, 2019.
3 “Trends in Prescription Drug Use Among Adults… - NCBI.” 2016. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4752169/. Accessed October 1, 2019.
4 “Burden and Cost of Gastrointestinal, Liver… - NCBI.” 2019. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/30315778. Accessed October 1, 2019.