Personalized Vitamin Plan – How To Know What Vitamins To Take?
By: Catherine Payne
The ultimate questions when it comes to vitamins: How do I know what to take? What is a personalized vitamin plan, anyway?
The world is over-saturated with media, information, and advertisements. Some form of- getting the 30 critical nutrients- is splashed all over instagram, netflix and every health food store, pharmacy and doctors office.
Don’t get us wrong. Vitamins are important for a healthy, thriving life. Yet, no one really explains how to do it and personalizes it for you.
The vitamin industry can overwhelm customers with conflicting and confusing information, leaving one directionless as they chose vitamins and supplements. A personalized vitamin plan created specifically for you is important to consider and can positively impact overall health- because you are uniquely you. Your needs are different from your friends. Age, gender, weight, diet, exercise, stress, genetics and health conditions all affect which vitamins you should take and the dosage that’s optimal. And your needs change at various stages of life, which is why custom multivitamins, whether complete, essential or individual, is the best way to get the nutrients that will optimize your life. The great news- because of market saturation- you don’t really need to spend excessive amounts of money to create custom vitamins for you. There are many high-quality options on the market. You just need to know which one or group of vitamins check all the boxes for you.
Why take Vitamins?
University of North Carolina Nutrition Research Institute defines a vitamin as, “an organic compound that cannot be made by the human body, but is a required nutrient vital for its various functions.” The 30 essential nutrients- vitamins and minerals- can be obtained through diet. However, more than 94% of the population is deficient in at least one of those 30 nutrients. While 50% of the population take vitamins in order to improve health and wellness, the rest may not know they are deficient or struggle to fill the gaps that will eventually lead to negative outcomes.
According to The Nutrition Source, multivitamins are a “nutrition insurance policy.” While all necessary vitamins can be found in a healthy diet, most people do not eat diets that cover the entire span of necessary nutrients. A recent study from the Harvard School of Public Health found that more than 94% of Americans get less than the required amount of vitamin D and vitamin E from food sources alone. Many due to difficulty absorbing nutrients and appropriate nutrient metabolism.
Every person is unique and vitamins are not one size fits all so a personalized vitamin plan is ideal. Custom multivitamins can prove to be a successful strategy to personalize your intake. It is not necessary to create an individual vitamin for every person. There are great vitamins on the market that fit a variety of needs. But which one? It’s really difficult for the average person to know exactly what is right for them and which one vitamin brand or combination of vitamins hit all their needs. A personalized vitamin plan, when guided by an expert, take into account your specific nutrient needs across your lifespan. Your personal health coach can ensure that custom multivitamins are matched to optimize your wellness journey.
All the Vitamin Things
There are 30 vitamins and minerals that the body needs to maintain healthy cell function, growth, and development. Intake across the nutrient spectrum on a daily basis overtime will reflect in the health of your skin and hair, overall energy level and mood. Each of these 30 essential nutrients perform a specific role and cannot be made by the body. Deficiency in even one over a period of time can cause negative health consequences.
The Harvard School of Public Health evaluated 13 vitamins and their role in the body. Genetics and lifestyle factors affect outcomes. Precision medicine is important to consider when evaluating each nutrient and its role in the body.
13 essential vitamins and benefits
Vitamin A (carotenoids)*
- Carotenoids are antioxidants.
- Foods rich in carotenoids and vitamin supplementation have been shown to be protective against the development of cataracts and Xerophthalmia.
- Outcomes: promotes bone growth and essential for the immune system, leads to healthy skin and tissues, decreases vision loss, lowers prostate cancer and risk, associated with lower risk of lung cancer
- Vitamin C is an antioxidant protective against cell damage and neutralizes free radicals.
- Supplementing Vitamin C or vitamin C rich diets are required for the synthesis of collagen, which keeps the skin healthy and vibrant and improves immune responses to colds and viruses.
- Outcomes: supports blood vessel wall regeneration, improves wound healing, reduces risk of cataract by ⅓, lowers risk for mouth, esophagus, stomach, and breast cancers
- Vitamin D is a hormone that plays a significant role in immune health.
- Supplementing Vitamin D has been shown to reduce the risk of colds and viruses and many other auto-immune conditions.
- Outcomes: strengthens bones, muscles, and tissues through maintaining healthy levels of calcium and phosphorus in the blood, helps form teeth and can reduce risk of non-spinal fractures, reduces the risk of immune conditions such as type 1 and type 2 diabetes, heart disease, multiple sclerosis, certain cancers and may be protective against tuberculosis
- Vitamin E is an antioxidant that protects against free radicals and improves lipid structure for youthful skin
- Supplementing Vitamin E has been shown to enhance immune function and prevent clots from forming in the heart.
- Outcomes: protects cellular structure by neutralizing free radicals, decreases risk of heart disease, age related eye conditions, and prostate cancer, improves cognitive function and is protective against neurodegenerative diseases
- Vitamin K is a vitamin involved in making proteins needed for clotting blood and producing healthy bone tissue.
- Supplementing Vitamin K has been associated with reduced fractures and improved wound healing. Note that those on a blood thinner should not consume high doses of vitamin K.
- Outcomes: prevents calcification of the arteries, improves wound healing, strengthens bones
Vitamin B1 (thiamine)
- Vitamin B1 is part of the B complex that plays a role in the growth and function of a variety of cells.
- Supplementing vitamin B1 has been shown to improve immunity, decrease cognitive decline and reduce congestive heart failure.
- Outcomes: promotes healthy skin, hair, improves muscle tone, and brain and nerve cells. Leads to healthy nerve functions
Vitamin B2 (riboflavin)
- Vitamin B2 is an essential component of two major coenzymes involved in energy production, cell function, growth and development, and metabolism of fat.
- Supplementing vitamin B2 has been shown to reduce migraines, improve thyroid and endocrine function and reduce DNA damage caused by carcinogens
- Outcomes: increases energy, promotes healthy skin, and maintains healthy weight
Vitamin B3 (niacin)
- Vitamin B3 is an essential vitamin required for processing fat in the body and healthy skin.
- Supplementing vitamin B3 has been shown to improve memory loss, especially among those with aggressive and paranoid behaviors.
- Outcomes: improves depression and mood, headache and fatigue and maintains healthy weight
Vitamin B5 (Pantothenic acid)
- Vitamin B5 is responsible for the conversion of energy and oxygen transfer throughout the body.
- Supplementing vitamin B5 has been shown to improve sleep quality, fatigue and GI issues
- Outcomes: responsible for synthesis of Coenzyme A, fatty acid synthesis, drug and energy conversion
Vitamin B6 (Pyridoxine)
- Vitamin B6 assists more than 100 enzymes in various functions including the breakdown of fats, proteins and carbohydrates and supporting immune function.
- Supplementing vitamin B6 has been shown to improve immunity, depression, and cognitive function. It also reduces morning sickness in pregnancy.
- Outcomes: promotes healthy sleep, appetite and mood, contributes to brain and immune function, improves neurotransmitter function, maintains healthy red blood cell production, and reduces risk of heart disease
Vitamin B7 (Biotin)
- Vitamin B7 is most recognized as biotin and improves the appearance of hair, skin and nails.
- Supplementing biotin has been shown to improve hair loss, skin rashes on the face and brittle nails. Note that high doses aren’t necessarily better and can interfere with thyroid and cardiovascular hormones. Deficiencies are often present during pregnancy, even with normal dietary intake.
- Outcomes: reduces hair loss, improves skin conditions and neurologic conditions, and maintains appropriate fat distribution
Vitamin B9 (Folate, folic acid or methylfolate)
- Vitamin B9 is most recognized as folate and is necessary to form DNA and RNA in everyone and is significant in fetal development.
- Supplementing folate leads to improved absorption (85%) compared to intake through food (50%). It is involved in healthy red blood cell production and is critical in periods of growth. Folate tends to be generalized to pregnancy, although everyone needs folate to thrive.
- Outcomes: reduces the likelihood of neural tube defects, may improve cognitive function, lower risk of cardiovascular disease, stroke and hypertension, moderates some types of cancer.
Vitamin B12 (cyanocobalamin)
- Vitamin B12 plays an important role in the function and development of brian and nerve cells.
- Supplementing vitamin B12 has been shown to improve absorption and is critical for those who do not consume a plant-only diet.
- Outcomes: improves mood and cognitive function, modulates megaloblastic and pernicious anemia, improves nerve function, fatigue and weakness, and reduces the risk of heart disease
*Indicates fat soluble vitamins. Toxicity is possible if taken at high doses.
Each vitamin has an independent role in the body. Most work in concert with other vitamins and enzymes, but lacking one will prevent the cascade of actions that keep the body healthy. Every person will differ in need depending on diet and other factors specific to them. Across all aspects of healthcare, precision and personalized medicine is becoming more relevant and necessary. Nutrition is different, and is actually one of the key aspects to a personalized approach to wellness. Research indicates that a personalized vitamin plan is an important part of optimizing your wellness journey.
Personalized Vitamin Plan – Which vitamin should I take?
Navigating nutrient intake is exhausting for most and it really shouldn’t be. Patients want advice from doctors, but most physicians haven’t been trained in nutritional education. Incorporating nutrition into mainstream medicine is still relatively new, but a necessary step in improving outcomes. Given the current climate in medical practices, most well-meaning physicians don’t have the time, even when they want to help their patients navigate the nutritional side to wellness and prevention. Recent advances in technology have made it possible for continuity of care to continue beyond your doctor’s visit. Personalized vitamin plans pave the way for improved health and wellness and integrate the concept of nutrigenomics. A custom multivitamin is helpful for everyone. However, those with health conditions, those with primarily plant-based diets, and women of child-bearing age need additional attention to navigate vitamin supplementation. Your healthcare team can help you understand what type of nutrients are needed specifically for you at each stage in your life.
Non-invasive Measures of Nutrient Need
Diet is an initial step in evaluating nutrient intake. Diet serves as an indicator- or surrogate marker- of vitamin need. Consuming too much or too little of a certain food can lead to negative outcomes. Consuming a high amount of a particular food, specifically carbohydrates, can lead to high calorie, low nutrient dense dietary intake. High focus of one nutrient group without appropriate compensation in others disproportionately affects overall dietary balance. For example, vitamin B12 is found in animal products such as meats, fish, dairy, and eggs. Those with high meat or carbohydrate intake, with little focus on vegetables, will likely still be nutrient deficient in one or more essential nutrients. Plant based diets that are strictly vegetarian and vegan tend to be associated with low intake of vitamin B12. Though it is possible to get most of the nutrients needed through diet alone, without intentional balance, it’s difficult to get all 30 nutrients necessary on a regular basis. Health coaches can help customize multivitamin intake and determine what combination of multis or individual vitamins are necessary after evaluating your diet.
Secondary Measures of Nutrient Need
More invasive indicators of nutritional status are typically determined through biological parameters. These are more exact but represent one moment in time. Your physician can order these tests, but not all physicians will run in-depth panels. Simple metabolic panels are not robust enough to determine deficiencies. Tests that evaluate surrogate markers of dysmetabolism are often driven by symptoms. Prevention should be the first priority during an evaluation. Standard of care protocols in traditional medicine most often focuses on treatment, so physicians do not typically order robust biomarker panels. Be your own advocate and encourage your physician to look at underlying indicators of deficiencies that may be associated with your symptoms.
Integrative physicians typically complete a more thorough biological assessment and can pinpoint if you have a reduced ability to absorb and metabolize specific nutrients. If dysmetabolism is the underlying cause of deficiency, supplementation can often remedy the deficiency and is the preferred method over diet. Precision microbiome supplementation based on personalized gut microbiota is worth exploring, depending on the type of dysregulation.
Though biological measurements give more of an exact assessment, both diet and biomarkers represent one moment in time. In order to truly understand biological need, monitoring both over several times- or even better, through continuous monitoring devices, will give a more accurate understanding of nutrient intake and metabolism. Once a thorough assessment is complete, vitamin type and dosage can be determined to create a personalized vitamin plan to best meet your needs.
3 Pillars of Wellness: Nutrigenomics
The concepts of nutrigenetics – understanding gene based differences in response to nutrient intake– and nutrigenomics- understanding how nutrient exposure affects gene expression and the downstream effects on cells, organs and body systems– are critical elements of precision medicine.
The 3 pillars of wellness affect all aspects of health and longevity. Personalized vitamins and diet (nutrition), fitness and mindfulness practices trigger expression of genes. That genetic code is specific to each person, so the needs of individuals vary. Sometimes these variances are not great, but sometimes the variances make a big difference in outcome. The precipative effects of lifestyle decisions- the 3 Pillars of Wellness- are individual specific. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration suggested that women of childbearing age, women who are pregnant, those with underlying conditions and older individuals may benefit from a personalized vitamin plan. In truth, everyone would benefit from understanding how their lifestyle choices- nutrition, fitness, and mindfulness- affect them personally.
Get the Right Vitamin for You
Sifting through the noise is difficult. So how do you get the 30 essential nutrients that are vital for a happy and healthy life in the dosage and form that are right for you?
Ensuring that your 3 Pillars of Wellness includes a well-rounded, plant-based diet is the first critical step. Consistent intake is not impossible, though our lifestyles make it hard to get in the spectrum of nutrients needed daily- even weekly. A personalized vitamin plan will take into account your needs. A great nutritionist or health coach can weave through your variable intake patterns and develop a strategy to ensure your nutrient needs are covered.
Creating custom vitamins for you specifically isn’t necessary for most due to the variety of clean products on the market. However, using precision nutrition strategies as a guide for health coaches to develop custom multivitamins intake- whether essential or individual combinations- will ensure you are on a path that’s just right for you. A personalized vitamin plan, as indicated in precision medicine research, is effective in optimizing your health and wellness journey.
Do you consume a mostly plant-based diet (with lean protein)?
Do you eat a variety of leafy greens and a rainbow of other vegetables?
Do you avoid eating sweets or SSBs (sugar sweetened beverages)?
Do you avoid processed foods (basically anything in a box?
Do you avoid eating a diet heavy in carbohydrates such as rice, corn and breads?
If your answers were all yes, then this indicates that a complete multivitamin may not be necessary, unless you are pregnant or have an absorption or metabolic issue. Research indicates that the general population may only need certain essential or individual vitamins if dietary intake is adequate.
If you answered no to any of the questions, you may need a complete or more focused vitamin regimen to round out your health.
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