Choosing a good quality multivitamin can be somewhat crazy-making!  Standing in CVS or Whole Foods or Costco, staring at row upon row of bottles claiming to contain good and healthy nutrients can make anyone confused about which one to pick, how much to spend, or even if any of them are necessary!

I do not think that everyone needs to be taking a multivitamin.  But, if a patient is feeling chronically fatigued, starting with a multivitamin recommendation to fill in nutritional gaps is a good first step. While we like to think that we can get all the nutrients we need from our diets, the reality is that some days we don’t eat as healthy as we can or should.  And even when we do, our produce no longer has the nutrient content it once did because of our present mono-crop farming practices.

So if you think incorporating a good quality multivitamin into your health routine might be a good idea, here are some things to keep in mind when choosing.

While some vitamins formulated for special conditions, will contain extra nutrients indicated for specific diagnosis, a multivitamin for general health need not contain too much beyond the basics: Vitamins A, C,D, and E, the B vitamins, Vitamin K, potassium, iodine, selenium, borate, zinc, calcium, magnesium, manganese, molybdenum, and possibly iron.

One important note is that, based on the ‘The Beta-Carotene and Retinol Efficacy Trial’, smokers should not take supplemental beta-carotene.  This means that if you are looking for a multivitamin and you are a smoker, look at the Vitamin A and be sure it is not in beta-carotene form.  Looking for a whole foods multivitamin may be necessary in this case as many multivitamins do contain synthetic beta-carotene.

A multivitamin will generally help you to get the recommended amounts of essential nutrients on a daily basis.  But as I said, if you are dealing with a specific health condition, it would be best to find a multivitamin specifically formulated for this condition.  For example, those with osteopenia and osteoporosis may require more supplemental calcium than is typically found in a general multivitamin.  This is where working with a ND to help you find the best multivitamin for your health profile might be necessary.

Form & Dosing
A multivitamin isn’t going to do you any good if it doesn’t get absorbed.  The infamous Centrum multivitamins are a good example of a multivitamin in tablet form.  While it sounds great to have a “one a day” dose, the absorbability of this type of dense ‘horse pill’ can really vary from person to person.  The digestive tract function of some people results in an inadequate “digestion” of the Centrum tablet meaning that none would be the same as taking one!

Supplements in capsule form are generally better absorbed.  The down side of this, in the realm of multivitamins, is that recommended dosages are more than one capsule, generally divided up during the day. While this may seem annoying, if it helps you to feel like you have enough energy to get through the day, it will be well worth it!  So consider looking for a multivitamin in capsule form that might have a dosing suggestion somewhere along the lines of 2 capsules twice a day.

This can be the hardest part.  Good quality supplements will be third party tested to ensure that they contain the things they say they do.  While this may sometimes be indicated on the bottle, “stamps of approval” are not regulated so while some may be indicative of quality, others might be a total lie!  There are certain brands that I consistently rely on for their good quality products and their third party testing practices, but some of these are only available through health care practitioners such as an ND.  Examples of some of these brands include Vitanica, Vital Nutrients, and Integrative Therapeutics.  Brands available over the counter can be more of a guessing game in terms of quality.  If you are curious about the quality of a brand you see on the shelf, I encourage you to take the time to call the customer service number on the back of the bottle to ask about their quality regulation practices and evidence of third party testing.  Over the counter brands that are reliably of good quality include Garden of Life, Solgar, Twin Lab, and Now foods.

The vitamins, minerals and other nutrients contained in a multivitamin are the necessary cofactors for the reactions that keep our metabolism going. Supplementing may be necessary to keep these reactions working as they should and to prevent problems that can result from deficiencies. Certain nutrient levels can be analyzed in blood tests or other nutrient evaluations but multivitamins are designed to give you safe supplementation amounts of the vitamins and minerals our bodies rely on the most and which are not generally obtained in adequate amounts in our diet. A good quality multivitamin may be just what your body needs!