Education and Newsletters, Multivitamins, Patty Shipley, RN, Naturopath

MultiVitamin – Next Steps

Part 3 of a 3-part multivitamin series

So you’re convinced you need to take a multivitamin… or maybe you’re already taking one.  With so many options to choose from, how do you know which one is best? And how do you know for sure you’re getting the most value out of multivitamin you’ve decided to add to your daily routine?

One a Day? No Way!

If you’re going to spend the time and money to get into this routine, avoid these common multivitamin mistakes:

  • Taking only one per day when the daily dose is more. Certain nutrients will not be present in the amount most commonly needed on a daily basis if you skimp on the portion.  For instance, folate, which is necessary for preventing neural tube defects in newborns is usually targeted at 400-800 mcg/day, but if you’re skimping on the dose, you’ll only get a fraction of the intended daily dose.
  • Taking “one-a-day” multivitamins.  There is simply no way absorbable, quality forms of vitamins and minerals can be crammed into one capsule or tablet in a sufficient amount (unless it’s a huge horse pill).  Choose instead at least a 3 or 4 per day multivitamin.
  • Vitamins create energy and are best taken at breakfast and lunch. Taking them with dinner may contribute to insomnia in some people. If breakfast and dinner are the only times you WILL take your multi, and this doesn’t interfere with sleep, go for it!
  • B vitamins and vitamin C are all water-soluble, so for best results, split between breakfast and lunch (or breakfast and dinner if this is tolerable).
  • Unless you are menstruating or have a proven need for iron, don’t take a multivitamin that contains iron. Excess iron causes oxidative stress and increases cardiovascular and other risks.
  • Buying a multivitamin based solely on price practically guarantees you will be taking the lowest quality versions of the vitamins and minerals it contains. You don’t choose the cheapest cuts of meat, the cheapest clothes, or the cheapest car you can find, so when it comes to your health, don’t choose the cheapest multivitamin. There’s a reason it’s cheap.
  • Choosing a multivitamin based on non-significant extras such as COQ10, enzymes, probiotics or similar ingredients. There is rarely a high enough dose of these to make any difference in overall health…remember you can only fit so much into those capsules/tablets.
  • Taking children’s chewables because you hate to swallow pills means you will only get a fraction of what an adult body requires, and likely some other additives you don’t want, such as sugars and food colorings.

What Else?

Aside from a multivitamin, most people should take the following:

  • Calcium is a MACRO-mineral (meaning we need large amounts) necessary for neurotransmitter signaling, muscle contraction, bone health and more.  Steer clear of calcium carbonate, which is essentially sidewalk chalk. This form of calcium is difficult to absorb, so it can end up in places you don’t want it (plaque, kidney stones, bone spurs). TUMS and the tasty, chocolate calcium chews that I’ve seen all contain carbonate (along with unnecessary sugars).  See tips in my last post for better forms of calcium to choose from.
  • Unless you regularly consume wild-caught, cold water fish and/or high omega-3 eggs, you should include fish oil in your daily regimen.  Nuts and seeds are sources of alpha-linolenic acid (ALA), another important omega-3 that your body cannot make, but research shows most people don’t convert ALA into EPA and DHA (found in fish oil), so it’s best to include sources of both.  Generally speaking, fish oil blends that are higher in DHA support brain health, and blends higher in EPA are aimed more at anti-inflammatory and circulatory support. Word of caution: don’t be a bargain hunter when it comes to fish oil. You take more grams of fish oil than anything else in a foundation regimen, and cheaper sources are less likely to be filtered for heavy metals and PCBs, and are more likely to have been handled or stored improperly, causing rancidity. Taking in rancid oils is worse than taking none!
  • You most likely need vitamin D – unless you spend 20 minutes 3 times weekly in the sun during peak hours with arms and legs exposed (wearing NO sunscreen). This is particularly true if you live in Ohio. I have found most Ohioans need around 5000 (yes, thousand) IU daily to maintain optimal serum levels of 60-80 ng/mL. Current serum lab reference ranges don’t reflect the OPTIMAL range that studies indicate for vitamin D’s protective effects against cancer, diabetes, cardiovascular disease, auto-immune disease, depression and bone health. The best form to take is D3 and it’s easily and inexpensively obtained over the counter.
  • Antioxidants are a must, particularly if you aren’t consistent with fruits and veggies. Opt for caps or powder if you have blood sugar imbalance or are attempting to lose weight since juices are loaded with sugar. Some of our favorites are turmeric, EGCG (green tea extract), resveratrol, ellagic acid and vitamins A, C and E.
  • Once or twice yearly (or more often based on specific needs) it’s good to go through a bottle of probiotics. This will keep the colonization of good flora in your gut varied and strong. Good gut flora are responsible for 50% of your vitamin K production, contribute to optimal levels of several of your B vitamins and constitute more than 70% of your immune response. Make sure you are taking at least 15 billion per day, and that there is an array of strains listed, including some lactobacillus (specific to the small intestine) and some bifidobacteria (specific to the large intestine).

And remember – testing is the best way to determine specific individual needs.

Test and Test Again!

As you may have heard us say, we recommend lab testing to establish a variety of baselines by which to measure your progress over time.

Once you have built a good foundational protocol, consider double-checking the specific products you’ve chosen after 3-4 months by doing micronutrient testing.

Personally, I was surprised to find that there were a handful of specific nutrients I wasn’t taking in a sufficient amount.  I noted several improvements in my general health and wellbeing when I tweaked my protocol to account for my individual nutrient needs.

Several doctors in the Columbus area now offer this testing, which is available through SpectraCell Laboratories, and is covered by most major insurances with a copay. Check out the Leaves of Life webite for our lab testing menu for more info on the options we offer and what practitioners we can put you in touch with.

Wishing you vibrant health!


Copyright Patty Shipley. All rights reserved.

Education and Newsletters, Multivitamins, Patty Shipley, RN, Naturopath

How to Pick a Good Multivitamin

Part 2 of a 3-part multivitamin series

All multivitamins are not created equal! There is not one multivitamin that is appropriate for everyone.

Increasingly, most health-conscious consumers are taking a multivitamin, but oftentimes the specific forms of vitamins contained in their multivitamin are not the best-absorbed or utilized forms.

Where to Start – Micronutrient Testing

Picture3Ultimately, the only way to truly know which multivitamin is best for you is to test your micronutrient levels. We are all genetically unique, eat at least slightly different than anyone else we know, have different exercise and stress levels and different absorption rates. All of these factors (and more) combine to create unique nutrient needs. At Leaves of Life, we test most patients’ nutrient levels (if you’re not testing, your ultimately guessing, after all) to ensure that nothing is missed.  Most patients who are not taking a quality multivitamin have multiple areas where they are deficient.

The most common nutrient deficiencies we see in our practice are:

  • Zinc: Deficiency can cause or contribute to depression. Zinc activates more than 200 enzymes involved in cell regulation, immune function, pH balance, DNA, RNA and protein synthesis, lipid metabolism, wound healing, thyroid function and digestion.
  • B12: The most common symptom of deficiency is fatigue, closely followed by depression.  Blood testing is NOT an accurate way to assess B12 status unless measuring methylmalonic acid.
  • Vitamin C: Crucial for collagen and elastin formation (the main structural proteins in skin, cartilage and blood vessels), necessary for production of adrenalin, noradrenalin, cortisol and carnitine.
  • Chromium: It takes 4 chromium molecules for each insulin molecule to plug into cell receptors and allow glucose to enter the cell for energy production.  Low levels are highly associated with elevated blood sugar levels.
  • Vitamin D: Deficiency increases risk for diabetes, heart disease, several different types of cancer, depression, auto-immune disease and loss of bone.

For more information on micronutrient testing offered by Leaves of Life, check out our lab testing menu.

What to Avoid

Picture4Look at the label and avoid multivitamins that contain the following:

  • Synthetic vitamin E: Listed as dl-alpha tocopherol,  synthetic vitamin E is poorly absorbed and utililzed in the body.  D-alpha tocopherol is natural vitamin E. One letter makes all the difference – just remember “L” stands for lousy. Choose d-alpha tocopherol, or even better, if purchasing a vitamin E as a stand-alone vitamin, choose one that contains all 4 tocopherols and all 4 tocotrienols since vitamin E is actually a complex.
  • Calcium carbonate: Is the chemical name for sidewalk chalk, and is poorly absorbed, making it likely to show up in bone spurs, kidney stones and arterial plaque.  Oyster shell and coral calcium are simply other forms of calcium carbonate, and are best avoided.  Instead, choose citrate, gluconate, amino-acid chelate, microcrystaline hydroxyapatite calcium (MCHC) or TRAACS chelated calcium.  There will still be specific forms some people absorb better than others, so testing is best to assess doseage and absorption.
  • Food colorings: After all, there’s no reason to supplement colorings, and many reasons not to – they’re just one more toxin for your body to deal with. So if you can get over the “embarrassment” of being seen taking a brownish/greenish multivitamin, you’re better off.
  • Folic acid: Occurs nowhere in nature and must be converted by the MTHFR enzyme into folate before it is usable by the body.  We find that nearly half of our patients don’t make this conversion well (based on genetic testing).  Choose folate, folinic acid or methyltetrahydrofolate (sometimes called MTHF) instead.
  • If there are no chemical forms listed on the label, assume the company has nothing to brag about! The better forms of vitamins are more costly to incorporate, so companies that use them want you to know.

The next post will discuss the most common mistakes people make when taking a multivitamin, and the basics we should all consider taking regularly.

Until next time, wishing you good health!


Copyright Patty Shipley. All rights reserved.

Education and Newsletters, Multivitamins, Patty Shipley, RN, Naturopath

Multivitamins – Should You Take One?

Part 1 of a 3-part multivitamin series

Should You Take a Multivitamin?

Unless you eat 6-8 servings (a serving is the size of your closed fist) of fresh or frozen organic vegetables and 1-2 servings of fresh or frozen organic fruits in an array of colors MOST days, you should be taking a multivitamin.

I find many clients eat what I call the “White-Yellow-Brown Diet”: eggs, cheese, nuts, meat, dairy and grains (pasta, bread/baked goods, crackers), and regularly consume refined/processed foods which provide caloric, though not nutrient density, and require nutrients for proper metabolism of the calories they contain.  For optimum nutrition, we need to eat the colors of the rainbow, since each color provides a different portion of the spectrum of nutrients necessary to good health, and we need to consume them in sufficient quantities.

One salad at lunch and one cooked veggie for dinner is simply not enough.

Would I prefer my clients eat sufficient veggies and fruit rather than take a multivitamin?  Absolutely!  Don’t get me wrong: a multivitamin does not substitute for eating well, or provide a valid excuse not to, but if you’re not doing so, a multivitamin is a must.  And even if you are, it’s important to consider the nutrient depletion that occurs from farming over and over in the same soil without properly nourishing it.

If you’re ill, recovering from surgery or injury, dealing with excessive or chronic stress, or exercise regularly, your nutrient needs will be higher, and a multivitamin can provide a nice array of necessary nutrients to catalyze numerous chemical reactions involved in repair, detoxification, production of hormones and neurotransmitters and much more.

Without enough vitamin B6, for instance, you can’t make sufficient serotonin or progesterone.  I like to think of vitamins (and minerals) as metabolic spark plugs.

What’s with all the Negative Press about Vitamins?

Here are the most common problems I find when dissecting often sensationalized study results:

1. Correlational Studies

Most research findings we hear about are based on correlational studies (usually observational or epidemiological) which are designed to observe for correlations, NOT determine cause and effect.

Before being accepted as fact, results from correlational studies should then be taken to a randomized controlled trial (RCT), a study that is designed to ensure that only one possible relevant factor distinguishes the treatment group from the control.  When done properly, a RCT can draw a cause-and-effect relationship under specific conditions that exist within the study setting.

Unfortunately, when reported by the media in sensationalized headlines, correlative research findings are not quantified as “preliminary” or “research hypotheses,” and many people mistakenly use these “sound bytes” to make decisions about their health.

2. Potentially Flawed Studies

Often studies have serious design flaws.  The Iowa Women’s Health Study was an 18-year observational study that was repeatedly reported to have shown that women who took multivitamins had a statistically higher mortality rate.

Among the design flaws: women who took multivitamins were nearly twice as likely to be taking synthetic hormones (which we now know increases mortality), there was no data gathered on other prescription medication use, and the study ended at age 82, which is older than the current average life expectancy for women, AND more than 50% of the women studied lived BEYOND life expectancy.

None of these confounding variables were factored in.

3. Skewed Data

Sad to say, often data is “cherry-picked” to manipulate consumers.

4. Incorrect Species or Dose

Sometimes the study does not use the proper species or part of a medicinal plant (leaves vs. roots), uses a dose below what is typically recommended for the condition being studied, or doesn’t use it long enough or at the correct stage of the condition.

5. Incorrect Form or Usage

In the case of vitamins, the wrong form may be used (synthetic vs. natural), or other guidelines of proper usage are not accounted for (antioxidants, such as vitamin E, should never be given alone, and toxic compounds should not be used to extract the active components from a plant).

Bottom Line

In a world that has become increasingly toxic (toxins require nutrients to be removed safely from the body), and where our farming practices, genetically engineered and processed/refined foods provide us with less and less of what we need, a multivitamin can mean the difference between marginal or outright deficiencies and optimal nutrient levels.

I encourage all of my clients to do micronutrient testing to assess their nutrient status.  It is almost always obvious when clients are not taking a multivitamin (or are wasting their money on a bad one).

Next post I’ll discuss how to pick a multivitamin and some common mistakes I see when reviewing supplement labels and regimens  in my practice.

Until next time…

Copyright Patty Shipley. All rights reserved.

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