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Functional Medicine, supplements, Wellness

Do Multivitamins Really Work? Your Multivitamin 101

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Functional Medicine, supplements, Wellness

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95%1 of our food’s vitamin and mineral content comes from soil.

That seems like a lot, right?

Not anymore. That used to fill us up with all our body’s necessary nutrients.

Soil nutrients in our foods and vegetables—like vitamin B2, vitamin C, calcium, and iron—have decreased2over 20% in the last decades. As a result, that 95% is not as substantial as it used to be. This nutrient decrease is a result of aggressive farming and pesticides that are not giving our soil enough time to fully replenish nutrients before regenerating. Now, many of us are looking for other avenues for nutrients, like in multivitamins.

Multivitamins are no ‘quick fix’ to this global problem, but they can be an insurance policy for maintaining optimal micronutrient levels.

The Multivitamin Controversy

It’s a traditional belief that multivitamins combine tiny percentages of vitamins and minerals into one capsule for insignificant benefits. Depending on where you’re sourcing your multivitamins from, this COULD be the case.

This isn’t the case for all multivitamins. Reputable multivitamins do offer enough vitamins and minerals for results.

The best multivitamins are ones that absorb into our bodies and provide measurable health benefits—like improving deficiencies and rebuilding cells.

Should I Take Multivitamins?

If you’re living your optimal life—following sleep, diet, exercise, toxin avoidance, and stress reduction regimes—but still need extra support, a multivitamin can be that assistance.

How Do I Choose a Reputable Multivitamin?

Deciding which multivitamins to choose from requires a review of your bio-individual needs, product ingredients, and the delivery form you prefer. Our supplement expert, Katherine Crosswell, gave us five tips for choosing a multivitamin with the best value.

1. Test for Your Deficiencies

Before adding multivitamins to your supplement routine, it’s best practice to get blood work done at a functional medicine clinic. Blood work reveals your current deficiencies and how your body may react to certain vitamins and minerals. The detailed data from blood work is the best avenue for making an informed multivitamin decision.

2. Ensure Minerals are Chelated

Minerals are an important aspect of multivitamins, you may come across magnesium, iodine, zinc, iron, molybdenum, or calcium as ingredients.

However, our digestive system doesn’t digest minerals easily. The digestion barrier can cause an upset stomach or inadequate absorption.

The digestion barrier should not stop you from getting the minerals you need. In order to properly absorb your minerals and get value from your multivitamin, ensure that your multivitamin has chelated minerals. Chelated minerals are easier to absorb in the body because they’re bonded to another molecule.

How do I know whether a mineral is chelated?

Check the ingredients label of your supplement and find the minerals. The minerals will be listed and in parentheses should say “chelated” or “citrate”, or they will end in “chelate” or “malate”.

3. Choose Methylcobalamin B12 vs. Cyanocobalamin B12

Many multivitamins include B12 into the mix. B12 benefits blood cell production, brain health, and DNA synthesis! However, not all B12 are created equal.

Methylcobalamin (AKA methylated B12) and cyanocobalamin (AKA cyanaca) are both B12, but methylcobalamin is naturally occurring while cyanocobalamin is synthetic.

Cyanocobalamin is safe, but methylated B12 is better on the body. Methylated B12 is easier to absorbed and keep inside the body than cyanaca. Additionally, cyanaca may be harmful to kidney function for individuals with sensitive kidneys.

How do I know whether the B12 is methylated or cynanca? 

To determine whether your multivitamin has methylcobalamin or cyanocobalamin, find B12 on your supplement facts list and read the parenthesis next to it. Methylated B12 will have “methylcobalamin” or “methylated” in parenthesis.

4. Look for 1000 IUs in Vitamin D

Vitamin D is also a popular multivitamin integration. If it’s included, our experts recommend a daily intake of 1000 IUs of vitamin D. Supplying your body with this intake supports bone health and absorption of other nutrients like calcium.

You may be considering taking a multivitamin that is low in vitamin D and instead including a separate vitamin D supplement; however, it is possible to over-do! Over-doing vitamin D can lead to nausea, vomiting, kidney problems, and bone pain. Unless you test for extremely low levels of vitamin D in your blood work, we do not recommend combining a multivitamin with a vitamin D supplement.

How do I know if there are at least 1000 IUs of vitamin D?

Check your supplement facts and the vitamin D should have 1000 IU (or higher) in parenthesis.

5. Pick Folate vs. Folic Acid

Folate and folic acid are B9 vitamins. B93 helps form DNA and RNA, which is needed for producing healthy blood cells and promoting rapid growth.

There are specific instances where folic acid may be beneficial, but as a multivitamin rule of thumb, choose folate instead of folic acid. Folate, known as folate acid, is the naturally occurring B9. Folic acid is synthetic.

Folic acid isn’t necessarily harmful on its own, but it isn’t the most compatible with B12—a common vitamin included in multivitamins.

Not only can folic acid disrupt B12’s movement, but it also can mask a B12 deficiency and the presenting health issues. Also, a B12 deficiency mixed with folic acid can also lead to nervous system and brain damage4.

How can I tell if my multivitamin has folate or folic acid?

Check the supplement facts on your multivitamin and find “folate”. Make sure that the facts ONLY say folate and do not have “folic acid” in parenthesis.

What Multivitamin Delivery Method is Best?

There are four types of multivitamins on the market: gummies, gel capsules, tablets, and liquids.

Gummies

Only take gummy vitamins if you or your child cannot take multivitamins in any other way.

If you’re an adult able to take pills, we recommend avoiding gummy multivitamins. Gummy multivitamins include added sugars that provide no benefits and increase your sugar intake.

Gel Capsules

Gel capsules are for fat soluble vitamins: vitamin A, D, E, and K. Fat soluble vitamins are in the form of a soft gel with oil (a fat) mixed in.

The purpose of the oil is because the vitamin dissolves in a fat. The dissolving assists with absorption through fat globules and distribution through the blood stream. Taking fat soluble vitamins as a non-gel tablet will not promote maximum absorption unless you eat a fat source with it.

Tablets

Tablets are usually water-soluble vitamins, which include B-complex and C vitamins. Water soluble vitamins are automatically dissolved in the body and are flushed out by kidneys if in excess.

Liquids

Liquids are ideal for kids and adults who can’t take pills. However, they aren’t a typical medium for multivitamins.

What Multivitamin Should I Take?

Choosing a multivitamin is a personal choice that is best done with a functional medicine practitioner.

We still have our favorites, though! These multivitamins were carefully selected by our supplement expert, Katherine Crosswell, because of their alignment with our multivitamin must-haves and patient success stories.

What are the Best Multivitamins for Women?

The Garden of Life Vitamin Code Raw One is Alive and Well's recommendation for best multivitamin for women's health.

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The Garden of Life Vitamin Code RAW ONE for Women is a once daily multivitamin that passes all our expert tests: it includes methylcobalamin, chelated minerals, folate, and 1000 IUs of vitamin D! In total, this multivitamin includes 24 powdered organically grown fruits and vegetables.

We love this multivitamin for women because it supports:

  • Energy and metabolism
  • Reproductive system health
  • Radiant skin and nails
  • Healthy digestion

NuMedica Foundation Essentials is Alive and Well's recommendation for best multivitamin for women's health.

The Foundation Essentials Multivitamin for Women is a once daily multivitamin that passes our expert tests: it includes methylcobalamin, chelated minerals, and folate! This multivitamin also includes other vitamins, minerals, amino acids, fatty acids, and herbals that address women’s health needs.

We love this multivitamin for women because it supports:

  • Optimal female wellness
  • Enhanced bone health
  • Cardiovascular health
  • Detoxification
  • Nutritional dietary intake

What are the Best Multivitamins for Men’s Health?

NuMedica Foundation Essentials for Men is Alive and Well's recommendation for best multivitamin for men's health.

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The Foundation Essentials Multivitamin for Men is a once daily multivitamin that passes our expert tests: it includes methylcobalamin, chelated minerals, and folate! This multivitamin also includes other vitamins, minerals, amino acids, fatty acids, and herbals that address men’s health needs.

We love this multivitamin for men because it supports:

  • Dietary nutrient intake
  • Prostate health
  • Cardiovascular health
  • Detoxification
  • Regenerating depleted nutrients

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The Wellness Essentials Multivitamin for Men’s Vitality is a once daily multivitamin that passes our expert tests: it includes methylcobalamin, chelated minerals, and folate! This multivitamin has a total blend of 13 concentrated extracts and phytonutrients to promote healthy aging.

We love this multivitamin for men because it supports:

  • Libido
  • Prostate and testosterone health
  • Cellular and immune system
  • Heart health, mood, and overall health

What are the Best Multivitamins for Kids?