One of the most common questions I get is whether someone needs to take multivitamins or not. The answer really depends on two things; 1. Your diet and 2. How sure you want to be that your body has everything it needs to function optimally.
The majority of the time people opt TO take one for the peace of mind they provide, ensuring they are much less likely to develop any nutrient deficiencies.
Overt, clinical nutrient deficiencies such as scurvy (lack of vitamin C) or pellagra (lack of Vitamin B3) are very rare in our modern western world, however “subclinical” nutrient deficiencies over the course of years, decades and lifetimes, can lead to increased disease incidence and subpar functioning.
Reasons You May Be More or Less Likely to Benefit From a Multivitamin
If you eat seasonally, you are less likely to need a multivitamin. Eating seasonally means changing your diet as the seasons change. This leads to more diverse foods and thus more diverse nutrient profiles. If you needed another reason to shop at your local farmer’s market, there it is!
If you have a restrictive diet, then you are more likely to need a multivitamin. For example, one of the most restrictive diets, the vegan diet, might leave someone at risk for being low in B12, iron, EPA and DHA, calcium and iodine. Does that mean that vegans can not get these nutrients from vegan food sources? Absolutely not, it just would take a conscious effort to make sure you are getting a high intake of the acceptable foods that have these nutrients. If you are highly motivated to get all of your nutrients from foods not multivitamins, no matter how restrictive your diet is, you can- it just takes more work than some people are willing to do. If you are going to go with this approach and do have a restrictive diet, I would recommend tracking your daily diet with an app such as Chronometer, which gives you a nutrient profile report.
Restrictive diets are not always as extreme as veganism. If you are adhering to a high protein or keto diet, this counts. If you are extra busy or limiting trips to the grocery store, you may be eating more ready-made foods, shelf-stable foods, or the same foods week after week out of convenience or habit, this may also be restricting your nutrient intake.
If you have a chronic disease that affects digestion or are prone to frequent loose stools, you are more likely to need a multivitamin. Gas, bloating, indigestion and loose stools can all be signs that your body is having a hard time breaking down your food. This can then affect your body's ability to absorb nutrients, thus leading to an increased risk of nutrient deficiencies. In addition to a multivitamin, you may benefit from other supplements such as digestive enzymes, probiotics, or a full gut-healing protocol.
If you are on certain medications, you may be more likely to have nutrient deficiencies. Medications can decrease your body's ability to absorb nutrients, decrease its ability to convert nutrients to active forms, or can increase the loss of certain nutrients. You may choose to supplement with specific vitamins or minerals or add in a general multivitamin to combat these effects. If you are unsure if the medications you are on might be causing depletions, ask us next time you are in!
Okay, so you have decided you are going to take a multivitamin, which one do you take?
Not all multivitamins are created equal. Typically you do get what you pay for. Sure, there are very expensive multivitamins where you might be paying more for marketing than you are for added quality, but there are equally vitamins that pass right through you without adding much nutritional benefit.
Unfortunately, most of the time it can be really hard to determine the quality of the multivitamin from the bottle. From my experience, it takes being familiar with a brand. This is where getting a recommendation from your pharmacist, doctor, or other health care provider can be really advantageous. Any brand you find at Remedy has gone through our quality review and we have first-hand experience with the products we recommend, so when in doubt, trust us! We look for brands that have thoughtful formulations with high-quality sourced ingredients. Extra points for brands with commitments to sustainability and who provide clinical studies or research to support their products!
One differentiator, you CAN find from the label is whole-food based multivitamin versus synthetic or otherwise “regular” multivitamins. At Remedy, we stock both. The difference with the whole food-based multivitamin, like our Innate brand, is that the nutrients are derived from whole-food sources, just like it sounds. This can be advantageous as our bodies are more accustomed to nutrients in this form, thus aiding in our ability to absorb and assimilate them in their active form and minimizing the risk of nausea.
Hopefully, this gives you a little more insight into whether a multivitamin is right for you and where to start in picking one out. One final recommendation I would like to add is regarding supplements that augment multivitamins. You will typically not find the recommended amounts of Omega-3 in any multivitamin. The health benefits of Omega 3 are well documented and vast, from reducing inflammation to improving our mental health, I don’t think there is anyone that wouldn’t benefit from Omega 3 supplementation! Seconfly, many people (even in California) are low in vitamin D. While vitamin D (typically 800 IU) are in our multivitamins, this might not be enough for a big percentage of the population. I highly recommend getting vitamin D testing, which is often covered by insurance to see if you need additional supplementation!