I spend a lot of time each week answering this basic question from my patients: Do I need a multivitamin?
It's a confusing topic because there have been many studies showing both the benefits and the dangers of multivitamins.
My answer? Two words: personalized medicine.
Personalized medicine starts with the idea that because everyone is different, there cannot possibly be one answer that applies to everyone. You are genetically unique; your life stressors are not the same as those of the person next to you, and your diet for the past five years is uniquely yours.
All these factors determine whether or not you need a multi right now. And these differences explain why all medical and health programs need to be tailored to each individual. To better understand how to use personalized medicine to answer the multi question, let’s first talk about what vitamins actually do.
Vitamins help to activate all the enzymes that make your cells and organs function optimally. Vitamins and minerals also provide antioxidants necessary for a healthy immune system; they protect your tissues from damage; and provide nutrients for efficient liver detox.
How do you know if you don’t have enough and need a supplement?
Here are the 7 signs you might be low on what your body needs:
- You have been diagnosed with an illness of any kind.
- 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.
- You've been a vegan or vegetarian for many years and might be low in B12 and zinc.
- You don’t eat many fruit and vegetables.
- 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.
- 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.
- You are hypothyroid, and you have a higher need for the minerals zinc, selenium, and maybe iodine.
Of course, it's impossible to list all the conditions that indicate you may need more vitamins, but to help you figure this out, you can see a functional Medicine doctor who can look do specialized testing.
In my practice, we can actually test how your cells are functioning and whether or not you're low in any particular vitamin, which helps us to customize your treatment plan.
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