Personalized Vitamins: What Are They and Are They Worth it?
By: Jennifer Smith
Image by: @adamsky
Let’s just be real for a second…
We’ve all been there. In the vitamins aisle for what feels like 30 minutes trying to figure out which vitamin is best. Is this organic? Maybe I should go vegan? Wait, do I need more or less iron? What about calcium? Is this the right type of vitamin D? These bright blue ones look cute.
You pick the one our friend took, only to find out it wasn’t the best one for your needs. Then you go back again- and let’s face it- spend more money on the wrong one again.
The vitamin aisle is over-the-top-whelming. There are so many vitamins to choose from, let alone pick the best one for you.
It’s a cycle and it never ends.
Do I Even Need Vitamins at all?
Yes, but not all of them have to be in pill form.
Vitamin and minerals perform thousands of roles in the body; healthy skin and hair, muscles tone and strong bones require a steady supply of nutrients.
You need about 30 different nutrients- vitamins and minerals-every day in order to thrive and stave off the things like cancer and chronic disease. These 30 nutrients are considered essential because your body cannot produce them. You either get them through diet or vitamin intake.
Research suggests that nutrient intake through the diet is optimal. But for most Americans, it simply doesn’t happen. Variety comes in waves. When we’re on it, then we’re covered. But we get busy, have a cheat day (or weeks) and start to miss out on critical nutrition. Vitamins are a great way to fill the gaps.
Food based nutrients
Micronutrient inadequacies in the US population are significant. The average American diet is not nutrient dense. Though we have access to food, our overall diets are not balanced from a nutritional standpoint. Many Americans well exceed the caloric intake requirements but fall short for adequate micronutrient needs. We try but our lives are busy. Sometimes it’s due to the type of food being consumed, and sometimes it’s due to the quality of food source, and sometimes it’s access.
Eating a high-energy, nutrient-poor diet predisposes one to many chronic diseases. Half of Americans have at least one preventable chronic disease.
Symptoms of Micronutrient inadequacies
- Reduced ability to fight infections
- Impaired cognitive function, memory, and mood
- Hair loss
In a recent survey from the NHANES data, more than 94% of Americans have a less one nutrient inadequacy.
Percent of Americans who do not meet daily requirements for at least one nutrient
- 94.3% for Vitamin D
- 88.5% for Vitamin E
- 52.2% for Magnesium
- 44.1% for calcium
- 43% for Vitamin A
- 38.9% for Vitamin C
Although there are many chains and local restaurants with a health-conscious tone, for the most part, we rely on whatever gets us to our next meeting, drop off, soccer game, and now in the era of COVID-19, virtual lesson. Our diet, though we may have the desire to eat well, is not a huge priority in the moment. When we have those moments often, our nutrient intake drops, and then our energy starts to drop as well.
Even if you think you were keeping things balanced, there is the added layer of the quality of our food supply. How and where food is grown plays a role in the nutrient content. Are the farmers growing the food sustainably without harmful chemicals and what is the timeline from plant to shelf?
Except for the super health-conscious, most people have a diet that’s just ok, and likely do not consume every needed nutrient. That’s why close to 90% of the American population is deficient in at least one nutrient.
Personalized Vitamins to fill the gaps
Research supports that a thoughtfully designed intake of personalized vitamins actually can help improve long-term outcomes. Optimizing your health through nutrient supplementation is a great way to ensure you are getting everything you need. It’s important to keep in mind that more is not always better.
In a study of 450,000 individuals from the NHANES database, Dr. Larry Appel, from Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, found that multivitamin supplementation may be associated with negative outcomes in some populations. Those that took high doses had a greater risk of health issues. Consuming too much of a specific vitamin can be detrimental. The excess can begin to build up in tissues and organs. Complete multivitamin intake may not be necessary for everyone. Those that consume a well-balanced diet may not need multivitamins. Research shows that others might benefit from individual or essential vitamin supplementation as these inadequacies can lead to suboptimal health. Given these findings, controlling your intake of personalized vitamins is a sound strategy.
But who really knows what they need? Taking the right personalized vitamins to fill the gaps for missed nutrients is an important piece of a puzzle that is difficult to solve without guidance from a health coach or nutritionist. A complete picture of biochemical needs is necessary. This is where an integrative medicine team can help.
What’s the difference?
It’s important to understand what personalized vitamins really mean before jumping in and picking up what your friends use. If you and several of your friends are pregnant, and you all take the same brand of prenatal, chances are that one prenatal isn’t the best for all of you. Your needs are slightly different from your friend group. You may need more iron and a sugar-free version. Your friend might need a lower dose of calcium. And your other friend might need a different type of folate. Yet, you are all taking the exact same one. To account for lifestyle and genetic variations, it’s so important to get personalized vitamins that are right for you.
Most Americans are lacking in at least one nutrient. Chances are, you fit into that group and need to take vitamins in some combination, even if it’s not a complete multivitamin. However, navigating exactly what nutrient, brand, and dose can be difficult. Those specifics differ from person to person. Recommending that every person take the exact same vitamin every day isn’t the answer. That’s where customization comes in, as it can help us navigate these differences and fill in gaps for each person.
It doesn’t mean you have to pay a crazy amount to have it created for you. There are really great products on the market already. You just have to know which one is the best fit for you.
What’s Right for Me?
You may not know your exact nutrient inadequacy without consulting a professional but there are other priorities you can think through. What’s meaningful to you and your family make not take the same priority for your friend. So you do you, and let them do them.
Not too long ago, only those whose name started with G did clean beauty. And only if you had a gua sha by your side while you sipped mushroom powder dosed tea.
Now, clean is no longer a trend. Its an expectation. Consumers are smart. They expect brands to meet that demand, as they should. Who wants to take a fertilizer with their vitamin C?
Clean products are those that are made with ethically sourced ingredients with the health of our bodies and the environment in mind. There are many brands out there that offer clean products with any proven or suspected toxic ingredients while also meeting your nutritional needs.
Sustainability obviously goes hand in hand with this concept. When applying this to the raw materials used in vitamins, manufacturers are becoming more and more conscious about how and where they obtain their ingredients.
Another more obscure factor is what is actually in the soil where the raw material is grown. You are what you eat. Vitamins are only as healthy as the soil their raw materials are grown in. Is this a priority for you when looking for a healthy option? Don’t forget your mushroom powder while you’re researching!
Feeding your microbiome should be one of the very first considerations for optimizing your health. A healthy microbiome is fundamental to our overall health and holds the key to our metabolism, immune system, cognitive health, and aging process.
In order to makeover the biome, intake of both prebiotics and probiotics from food and vitamins is important to optimize outcomes.
A microbiome makeover can:
- reduce inflammation
- improve mood
- improve skin
- prevents accelerated aging
Pre-and-Probiotics Foods to improve the microbiome
- Low fructose fruits
- Pickled vegetables
Studies have demonstrated that exercise 30 to 60 minutes of cardio per day- is another key factor that can change your microbiome health for the better, independent of diet. As the health of your microbiome improves, absorption of vitamins and minerals and overall health will improve.
Most people think of vitamins as pills. But today there are many other healthy options. Taking nutrients several different times a day through various means may be the best way to increase bioavailability and optimize absorption. Vitamin options include:
- Capsules or softgels
- Intravenous (this needs to be monitored closely by a physician)
Vitamins A, D, E and K are fat-soluble vitamins. All of the others are water-soluble and you get rid of them daily. Toxicity is rare for water-soluble vitamins, but possible. Minerals can be stored in the body and some more readily than others.
Overall, more is not necessarily better. In fact, very high doses have not shown greater benefit, so stick to the RDA and well below the Upper Limit, unless specifically directed by a physician.
How do I get personalized vitamins?
Even after knowing your priorities, how do you know what exact vitamin is right for you? There are many companies that give you feedback and pathway you into their products. We love these companies and they provide great products for some people. They don’t necessarily give you personalized vitamins just for you. They give you their version of the women’s multi or prenatal, just like brands at the drugstore. In order to get exactly what you need, you need to have access to all the brands available.
Talk to your doctor, meet with a health coach, or take our free personalized vitamin quiz to find the right vitamins for you. Visit our FAQ page or contact us to find out more about our mission to pair each individual with his or her perfect match. Most importantly, get what you need and live your best life.