I don’t blame you for feeling confused about supplements. With all the news headlines telling us we should be wary of big box brands, false claims, and lack of regulation in the supplement industry - it’s made a lot of people worry that buying supplements is, literally, like throwing money down the toilet. Even when I decided I wanted to get pregnant and started looking for a good prenatal multivitamin, it took me ages to find one that I knew would be both effective and safe. I looked at every single brand out there, before settling on the 3 - just 3 out of the hundreds of choices - that I liked and would happily take! I can appreciate how confusing and frustrating it is to figure this out.
Those 3 prenatal supplement brands I like? Vitanica, New Chapter, and Innate. As well as avoiding fillers, these brands are low dose. Not many people realize that a too high intake of certain vitamins can actually be contraindicated for a developing baby.
I read so many of your comments on the blog about this very subject - Which ones are good to take? How do I choose? How do I know if I need a multivitamin? So thanks to your questions, today I’ll be sharing the myths versus the facts. I’m going to break this down for you so that you don’t have to feel baffled by the shelves upon shelves of supplements in the health food store aisles or even better, so you feel like I’m right there with you in the store to shop!
Multivitamins - the myths versus the facts
Myth: A multivitamin can save you from an otherwise unhealthy diet.
Fact: Supplements will not work right if you do not have a healthy internal ecosystem. Sadly, your body just won’t absorb the vitamins. First of all, the vitamins in multivitamins are less bioavailable than the nutrients we extract from food. So you’ll never absorb 100% of what’s in a supplement even if you’re perfectly healthy. But if your diet isn’t fostering a healthy gut environment, what you’ll absorb will be dramatically less. A great example of this can be seen in probiotics. Research shows that unless you eat a diet rich in prebiotics, then as soon as you stop taking your probiotic, those good bacteria will vacate an otherwise hostile area - your gut! If you feel like the supplements you’re trying aren’t helping you much, then you’re not imagining that to be the case. Your body can’t use them efficiently for the very support you want to incorporate them for.
Myth: You can fix your symptoms by taking the right supplement.
Fact: No one supplement will solve your PMS, PCOS, fibroids, infertility or acne. Just as the Pill doesn’t fix these issues, no other kind of pill will do it alone either. You CAN however use supplements to help address the underlying causes of these conditions. For example, if you have PCOS, or ovulation issues, you can use a cinnamon supplement along with dietary changes to improve your insulin response and that will help restore your ovulation. You see - you can’t take a pill to fix ovulation, but you can use a supplement with blood sugar balancing meals to help your body restore this process.
Myth: All supplements are the same, so it’s fine if you go with the least expensive brand.
Fact: Wrong - brands really matter. Recent studies exposed that big box store brands don’t contain what they claim and are packed full of fillers. Not only that - you also need to be vigilant about the ingredients in supplements from smaller, healthier-seeming brands too. Many of these are also packed with fillers including corn, gluten and dairy sources, stearates, GMOs and soy! Take a long look at the “other ingredients” on the label. You also should be aware of where the supplements are manufactured. Currently, there is no FDA regulation of supplements in the US and there is definitely also none anywhere else. You want to look for manufacturers that do their own testing and quality regulation. I have spent the past 15 years researching and trying different supplements. I am highly selective about which brands I use.
Myth: The more ‘stuff’ in your multivitamin, the better.
Fact: A basic multivitamin should have the RDA of all the vitamins and some minerals that you need. However, many brands also add other ingredients to make their multivitamin stand out, look healthier, or look like its worth more of your money - ingredients such as herbs, algae, grasses, powdered fruits and vegetables, and sprouted grains. In theory, this seem like a great mix of healthful elements, but in practice these additional ingredients can actually work against you. You may have sensitivity to some of these ingredients. In addition, not all ingredients interact well with each other or with other medications you might be taking. Herbs can be as powerful as pharmaceuticals and should only be used medicinally for a short period of time to treat a certain problem and not taken every day routinely. Phytoestrogenic ingredients like pomegranate seed extract can worsen a problem like endometriosis. Those with food sensitivities will find grains and grasses bring on symptoms. With many multivitamin brands you’re actually getting more than your needed RDA of some of the vitamins. That might not seem like an issue, but too much B12 can actually increase anxiety for example. Blood pressure can be raised by licorice extract. And, anyway, any surplus vitamins that your body cannot use will excreted through the urine regardless.
Should You Take Multivitamins Or Individual Supplements?
I think individual supplements when used for a specific reason to help boost low micronutrient levels and to help with a hormonal imbalance are essential. I hope I’ve made clear however, that you have to absolutely be using food to help get you all the way to your desired health goals. As far as the question about multivitamins goes, I never took one until I was pregnant personally. I instead prefer to use individual supplements to help with the function of my endocrine system. If you’d like to see what supplements I recommend for specific hormonal support - check out the supplement guide I created here!
Always remember, that once you have the right information about how your body really works, you can start making health choices that finally start to work for you! You can do this - the science of your body is on your side!
to your FLO,
Good things come in threes:
I want to hear from you
First, do you take a multivitamin?
Second, will you now read the “other ingredients” on the label? Let me know what you discover.
Third, You know every one you know is hormonal – spread a little good ovary karma and share this article on social media ?
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