The Who, What, Why, and When of Multivitamins

This is an article I wrote for my RMT Brie-Anne. It appears on her blog:, however I thought I would share it here as well.

Our body requires vitamins and minerals to function. You can either get them from whole foods in your diet or from nutritional supplements, but to maintain optimal health you need to get them in some form. A multivitamin is a supplement designed to provide the body with the essential vitamins and minerals it needs.

Before I continue, I need to take a slight tangent. The information discussed within this article is not to be taken as medical advice. While vitamins and minerals are natural, it is important to discuss taking a multivitamin with your medical or naturopathic doctor. Some vitamins and minerals can interact with medications you are on. Some companies even add herbs to their formulations, which may also interact with your medications. Certain vitamins can be dangerous if taken in too high of a dose. If you are unsure about your multivitamin speak with your doctor.

For some people, a multivitamin is not necessary. Obtaining all the vitamins you need is easily achieved by eating a diet that focuses on whole foods: fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and healthy sources of protein. This means following Canada’s food guide of eating 7-10 servings of fruits/vegetables, 6-8 servings of grains, 2-4 servings of protein. Ideally, this is how we should be getting our vitamins and minerals. However, in today’s world our lives are incredibly busy and we don’t always have time to cook a nutritious meal. If your diet is restricted or unbalanced, your digestion is poor or your body cannot absorb the food you eat, or you are elderly you may benefit from taking a multivitamin. Many medications also deplete levels of certain vitamins in our body. For example, the birth control pill depletes zinc, folic acid, B12, B6 and vitamin C. Drugs used to treat gastric ulcers deplete vitamin B12, folic acid, iron, zinc and calcium.

When looking for a good multi it is always important to read the label, just like you read the label of the food you buy from the grocery store. A multi should contain at least 100% of the recommended daily allowance (RDA) suggested by Health Canada. Look for a multi that contains at minimum:

Vitamin A (Avoid in a multi if pregnant)
Vitamin B1 (Thiamine)
Vitamin B2 (Riboflavin)
Vitamin B3 (Niacinamide)
Vitamin B5 (Pantothene)
Vitamin B6 (Pyridoxine)
Vitamin B12 (Methylcobalamin)
Folic acid
Vitamin C
Vitamin D
Vitamin E
Vitamin K
Iron (Optional. Definitely suggested for vegetarians and females)

Some of the more expensive multivitamins contain herbs and other nutritional vitamins that aren’t needed for general health. Also if you are buying a multi for your child or you are pregnant or elderly you should choose a multi-vitamin formulated for you, as your nutrient requirements are different than what can be found in a general multi.

The most popular multi-vitamins on the market are the “one-a-days”: Kirkland, Jameson, Centrum, Life just to name a few. There is absolutely no way all of the vitamins and minerals you need could be packaged into one pill. When comparing the doses of individual vitamins and minerals to the RDA set by Health Canada, many of the multivitamins on the market do not contain sufficient levels of individual vitamins. When looking for a multi, look for one that should be taken 2-3 times per day. That being said, more does not always mean better. There is a dose range and this range varies based on your age, your gender and whether or not you are pregnant. It is important to stay within this range to avoid drug interactions and toxicity.

Another thing to keep in mind is the form of the multi-vitamin: liquid vs. tablet, vs. capsule, vs chewable vs. gummy. The one-a-day multi’s are usually in tablet form. For a tablet to hold its form binders are added, making it difficult for your body to break down a tablet into a form that is absorbable. When it comes to choosing a multivitamin what is NOT listed as a medicinal ingredient is just as important as what is. Make sure you read the list of NON-MEDICINAL ingredients. Many multivitamins contain fillers, preservatives, dyes, sweeteners, binders, flavours, deodorizers, chemicals and potential allergens (lactose, gluten, gelatin, dyes). Chewable, gummy or liquid multivitamins contain dyes, sugar and added flavours to make them taste better.

Here is a list of some of the non-medicinal ingredients in popular multivitamins: pregelatinized corn starch, modified food starch, crospovidone, aluminum, hypromellose, polyvinyl alcohol, silicon dioxide, sodium metavanadate, sodium molybdate, sodium selenate, sucrose, talc, titanium dioxide, maltodextrin, and sodium aluminosilicate. Scary!

The best form of multivitamin is a capsule that contains either a powder or a liquid. This form of pill usually does not contain binders, sugar, flavours or dyes. Read the label just to make sure! If you can’t swallow pills capsules can be opened and the contents mixed in a glass of water.

You do not have to take your multi at the same time every day, unless doing so will increase your adherence. Try to avoid taking a multi prior to bed, as the B-vitamins tend to provide an energy boost. If the dose is more than one capsule a day, spread them out during the day to increase absorption. A multi should be taken with food to avoid any nausea, however take them away from any fiber supplements like psyllium or Metamucil, which can bind up the ingredients and prevent you from absorbing them! If you take an additional iron supplement, do not take it with the multi as the calcium will prevent absorption of the iron.

The bottom line is, do your research, speak with your health care provider and choose a multivitamin that is formulated to suit your health.

If you have any other questions, feel free to email me, or call 705-755-0321 to book an appointment at the clinic.