Should You Be Taking Multivitamins?

Things are all going great. You exercise every day, you are religiously keeping away from fried food and you try and maintain a balanced diet.

But you notice you are having hair loss, or you discover symptoms like fatigue or peeling nails.

This implies that you might be low on what your body needs.

Consider multivitamins a must if you notice symptoms such as:

  1. You have been diagnosed with an illness of any kind.
  2. You are having symptoms such as fatigue, brain fog, hair loss, peeling nails, or bumpy skin on the back of your arms, to name just a few. Or you have symptoms your doctor can’t figure out.
  3. You’ve been a vegan or vegetarian for many years and might be low in B12 and zinc.
  4. You don’t eat many fruit and vegetables.
  5. You’ve had a lot of stress for a long time. If so, your body needs more Bs and minerals than usual, since stress causes you to burn through these nutrients quickly.
  6. You have digestive issues, or if you’re taking an antacid or proton pump inhibitor, you might not be absorbing your vitamins very well, and therefore need to supplement with higher amounts to get them into your body.
  7. You are hypothyroid, and you have a higher need for the minerals zinc, selenium, and maybe iodine.

Are multivitamins enough?

You may want to take some extra supplements, depending on what your blood test shows you’re deficient in. Also, because some vitamins shouldn’t be taken together, you may need to take other supplements separately.

Vitamins and minerals interact in complex, often unpredictable ways. For example, vitamin C and nonheme iron (the type that predominates in vegetables and grains) are “team players.” Similarly, vitamin D helps with the absorption of calcium. Other nutrients, such as zinc and iron, can act against each other.

In addition, some substances in foods, sometimes called anti-nutrients, interfere with the body’s use of vitamins and minerals. Thus oxalates, found in some dark green leafy vegetables, interfere with the absorption of some minerals (including calcium, zinc, and iron), as does the phytic acid found in some high-fiber foods.

Of course, it’s impossible to list all the conditions that indicate you may need more vitamins, but to help you figure this out, consider seeing a functional medicine doctor who can do specialized testing and understand micronutrition. A traditional doctor won’t be much help in this arena since they only get about one day of nutritional training in medical school.

But wait!

Don’t just buy any old vitamin off the shelf. The supplement industry is not regulated in the United States, and many supplements don’t contain what they claim to. Your best bet is to go to a health food store that specializes in organic food (not a drug store or workout-supplements store) and get one that’s made from organic whole foods.

And then you need to consider bioavailability. In a nutshell, your body will absorb and use vitamins only if they’re in the bioavailable / active form. But since it’s cheaper for manufacturers to fill their bottles with cheap chemical forms of the vitamins, you end up lining the pockets of these unethical manufacturers and having expensive pee. 

Something else to consider: Can you improve your diet? Eat more veggies and less animal products? (Animal products are very inflammatory and filled with toxins, which could be making you feel sick or sluggish.)

Research indicates that most of the vitamins you get from the food you eat are better than those contained in pills. Even though vitamins in some supplements are synthesized to the exact chemical composition of naturally-occurring vitamins, they still don’t seem to work as well.

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