There has been much debate over whether people should take vitamins. If you are eating a healthy, varied, and whole-foods diet, you should be able to get all of your needed vitamins through your food. Unfortunately, most of our food is grown on over-farmed land, so the food produced on it is deficient of micronutrients and genetically designed to look good and have a longer shelf life (with no effect to its nutritional content or taste).
My general advice is to take a half dose of a multivitamin every day or two. That way you are less likely to be deficient in anything and you avoid the risk of overdosing on anything.
As someone who studied chemistry for three years before switching gears to follow my true passion of wellness, and chiropractic, I’ve paid a lot of attention to the chemical composition of vitamin supplements. With this added knowledge, I stress that if you are taking a multivitamin, make sure the vitamins come from plant sources.
Plants build vitamins via very complex biochemical processes, producing one specific biomolecule. When vitamins are produced in a lab, an unnatural form can be produced and included in the multi-vitamin pill.
For example, vitamin E has two forms of isomers, an L-alpha-tocopherol and a D-alpha tocopherol. Isomers are chemicals that are the same but mirror images of each other. Sometimes this does not matter. For example, the shape of a cube is the same as the shape of its mirror image. But many shapes are not the same as their mirror image. For example, your left (L) hand can be thought of as the mirror image of your right (D), but any image of a hand, when looked at carefully, can be recognized as either a right or a left.
Vitamin E has a left and right version. Only the right-handed version works in our body. To help you understand why one works and the other doesn’t, think of a how a lock and key works.
Imagine a lock that requires the fingerprints of your right hand to open. Now, place your left and right hand on a table in front of you. Can you see how your left hand wouldn’t be able to open that lock?
Do you see that the mirror image is not the same item as the original item?
Even if your left hand had the exact same fingerprints as your right hand, it still wouldn’t be able to open the lock, because the fingers would be in the wrong order (the pinky finger would be where the thumb should be, and even though the middle finger would still be in the right place, the finger prints would be mirrored). That is what happens with the left and right vitamin E. The right one works, the left one does not. An easy way to remember this is “L” is for “liar.”
Look at your vitamin labels, and if it says the Vitamin E is dl-alpha-tocopherol, it means it has both the unnatural form of Vitamin E as well as the natural version (hence the “d” and the “l”), and in my opinion, it should be thrown away. Look for a multivitamin that has the d-alpha-tocopherol (not the dl-alpha-tocopherol).
TAKING VITAMINS IS NOT ENOUGH
It’s one thing to take vitamins. It’s a whole other thing to absorb them. Vitamins are of no use to us if we just poop them out. So many people are on fat free diets, trying to lose weight. But we need healthy fat to absorb fat-soluble vitamins! I don’t avoid eating fatty foods as long as they are healthy fats. Avocado, wild salmon and walnuts are a few examples of tasty foods that are full of good fats. I use organic REAL butter as it does not increase risk of cardiovascular disease as we thought (31). Margarines and other fake butters are unnatural, according to some research, unhealthy and even related to weight gain!
Fat-free diets are not healthy because you need fat to digest your fat-soluble vitamins (Vitamins A, D, E & K). I can’t stress enough the importance of good fats in our diet. It is fat that protects every cell in your body, including the cells in your brain that help you think clearly and make good decisions. Cell membranes (the coating of every cell) are mostly made of fats (two layers of phospholipids), with chunks of proteins and sugars throughout the two layers of fat.
Fat has a bad reputation because, like anything, it is not healthy to ingest it in excess.
FAT IS NOT THE ONLY FACTOR IN VITAMIN ABSORPTION
Plus, most people do not drink enough water. We need water to absorb the water-soluble vitamins.
To calculate how much water to drink daily, multiply your body weight by half and use that number to determine how many ounces of water to drink in a day. For example, I am 126 pounds, so I should drink (126 x 0.5) or approximately 63 ounces a day (almost eight 8oz glasses a day). Also, for every half an hour you exercise in a day, you should add at least another 10 ounces.
Now, if you drink black tea, coffee and/or alcohol, you need to drink even more water. Tea, coffee, and alcohol are fluids that actually keep you in a dehydrated state because they interfere with your anti-diuretic hormone (ADH). The hypothalamus (a part of your brain) detects how much water is contained in your blood.
If the water content is low, it tells the pituitary gland (the master gland of your body, also in the brain) to release ADH (antidiuretic hormone) into your bloodstream. When it reaches the kidneys, ADH opens the kidneys tubules so more water is reabsorbed into your blood (instead of urinating it out). Once the water pressure goes back up, the hypothalamus will detect this, and will tell the pituitary gland to STOP producing ADH. The ADH levels drop in the blood, and the tubules will close down, so that more of the fluid will flow out into the urine. This negative feedback loop ensures that our blood holds the perfect amount of water.
Simply put, if you drink too much water, the body has a means to urinate out the excess, but keeping a healthy amount in, as long as you eat and urinate as needed. As with anything you ingest, it is possible to overdose, but it would be difficult to do so. You can google hyponatremia if interested (too little salt in the blood from either not enough salt or too much water intake). I find most people are in a dehydrated state.
When you drink fluids like tea, coffee and alcohol instead of water, ADH production goes down, and the result is excreting too much water in your urine, leading to dehydration. Dehydration has a nasty effect on one’s health, especially over the long term.
So, in any given day, for every ounce of alcohol, and for every cup of tea/coffee, you should drink at least eight additional ounces of water.
Take plant based vitamins, eat enough good fat and drink enough water to be able to absorb the vitamins from your gut for the delivery to every cell in your body that needs these vital nutrients. Your whole body will function better as a whole if every cell of it’s make up is healthy.