By Dr. Morrison with Amanda Childers
“Should I get all my nutrition from food, or do I need to take a Multi Vitamin?” My patients ask this question all the time. And the answer is a resounding, YES — to both!
Let me explain: In a perfect world, where we’re able to shop at the Farmers Market, talk with our local organic farmer about what’s fresh and in season, and choose the fruits, vegetables, and meats that are ripe for consumption — we likely wouldn't need supplements. This is because local, seasonal, and organic foods are packed with vitamins that often get depleted as they sit in transit and on the shelf. The reality is, the fresher the food, the more nutritious it is. And, organic is generally more nutritious than non-organic.
There’s also the modern issue of nutrient depletion in soil: Today’s fruits and vegetables just don’t have the same nutrient density as our ancestors were able to enjoy. An interesting article in Scientific American from April 27, 2011 found that Vitamin A, B, and C are anywhere from 10 to 30 percent lower now, when compared to the 1950s. In order to understand the question about vitamins a bit more, we need to understand a few basics about these essential nutrients.
What is a Vitamin?
Vitamins are generally described as organic compounds that are essential for normal growth and nutrition, and are required in the diet because they cannot be synthesized by the body.
How do Vitamins work?
In order for any and all biochemical functions to occur, the correct amount of vitamins must be present. In order to prevent disease, RDAs (recommended daily allowances) have been created to instruct us on the very minimum amount needed to keep our body from developing a vitamin deficiency. One of the most famous vitamin deficiencies occurred to early sailors on their transatlantic routes. English sailors found that eating limes on their trips prevented bleeding gums, a condition called scurvy, which stems from Vitamin C deficiency. It wasn’t long before the term limey was used to describe English sailors.
In order to create optimal health, though, some have advocated for taking higher doses of vitamins. Recently many of us have become aware of the importance of taking high doses of Vitamin D (RDA 400-800iu). People are getting blood tests for 25 OH Vitamin D, and if low (under 30), some doctors are recommending replacement doses anywhere from 5000iu daily to 50,000iu weekly. The goal is to optimize Vitamin D levels (goal 50-100) to improve health and bone density.
Some facts about individual Vitamins:
Vitamin A – Eye and skin health; improves night vision, reduces acne. Found in any red, orange, or yellow fruit or vegetable (think carrot and sweet potato), spinach, kale and collard greens also have high amounts.
Vitamin B (B1, B2, B3, B5, B6, folic acid) – Energy production. These B-vitamins are found in unprocessed foods like whole grains, beans, fish and green vegetables.
Vitamin B12 – Energy, mood hormones, and preventing heart disease. This vitamin must be consumed from egg yolks and red meat. It’s not found in any vegetable.
Vitamin C – Skin healing and immune strength. This is found in any fresh fruit or vegetable. The less fresh the fruit, the less the amount of Vitamin C.
Vitamin D – Enhances absorption of Calcium from digestive tract, improves immune function, and prevents seasonal affective disorder (SAD). Sitting in the sun during the summer allows us to make this vitamin on our own in our skin. Sunblock prevents this process. It is also found in cod liver oil.
Vitamin E – Antioxidant and improves immune function. Found mostly in nuts and seeds.
Vitamin K – Improves proper blood clotting, puts calcium into bone, reduces hardening of the arteries. In green leafy veggies like kale, collard greens, swiss chard, and broccoli rabe.
Fat-soluble vs. water-soluble vitamins
Vitamins ADEK are the fat-soluble vitamins and they can accumulate in our body. This is ideal for Vitamin D, since it only can be manufactured in our bodies during the summer, so there’ll be some saved in our body for the winter. There is the potential for toxicity if these vitamins are consumed at high doses over extended periods. Toxicity is rare.
B vitamins and vitamin C are water-soluble vitamins and do not get stored on our body. The exception is Vitamin B12 that can be stored to some degree. It’s very non-toxic.
While we all strive to eat a diet that is local, seasonal, and organic, I suspect that we aren’t all doing it to the extent that is necessary for our optimal health. If this is the case, you can (1) supplement with a multi-vitamin (I recommend my Daily Multi 2 daily with breakfast) or (2) whip up your own vitamin packed supplement!
Amanda Childers is a certified health coach working at The Morrison Center, in NYC, where she partners with clients to develop personalized health plans, and provides in-depth support to help individuals discover their healthiest self.
Dr. Jeffrey Morrison is a medical doctor, the author of Cleanse Your Body, Clear Your Mind, and founder of The Morrison Center, in NYC. He partners with patients to find the underlying cause of their symptoms and provide a thorough, individualized treatment and nutritionally-based program to achieve optimal health result.
Learn more about Dr. Morrison and The Morrison Center.