Recently I started a class on micro nutrients. I was excited about all the new information I was learning until I realized sheepishly that some of my views on vitamins and minerals had to change.While I still buy a rainbow of fresh veggies and fruits plus a large variety of meats, to ensure the consumption of a balanced array of nutrients and phytonutrients for my family, I have become acutely aware of the need for supplementation with a multivitamin. It was a rather difficult, humbling realization that took me a few weeks to process.
Here are five reasons that convinced me to supplement with a well balanced, natural multivitamin:
Industrialized farming has left our soils depleted. Out of more than 70+ trace minerals necessary for producing healthy, nutrient-dense crops, modern farming methods put only two to three trace minerals back into the soil after harvest. Lieberman (2007) explains that our soil is depleted of selenium in most parts of the country and often has only marginal levels of zinc, magnesium, calcium, and other minerals. Without mineral rich soils, it is impossible for fruits and vegetables to contain a rich supply of nutrients.
The Organic consumers Association cites several studies with similar findings: A Kushi Institute analysis of nutrients data from 1975 to 1997 found that average calcium levels in 12 fresh vegetables dropped 27%; iron levels 47%; vitamin A levels 21%, and vitamin C levels 30%.
In an ideal world we would all be eating fresh produce straight from our gardens. It is the only way that we would actually get the nutrient levels from fruits and vegetables that many textbooks claim we do. Unfortunately, most of our fresh produce comes from the grocery store and has been picked, stored, shipped, and then stored again sometimes for weeks before we purchase it! By the time we bring it home, store it some more at the bottom of our refrigerator, boil it, chop it, and cook it, the nutrient content has been drastically reduced.
Vitamin C content of apples may fall by two thirds after only two to three months. Potatoes may have 30 milligrams of vitamin C per 100 grams when they are freshly harvested in the fall; but by springtime, they have 8 milligrams per 100 grams; and by summer they have practically none. Green vegetables suffer even more – they lose almost all their vitamin C after a few days of being stored at room temperature. Everyone knows that orange juice is high in vitamin C. But few people realize that an orange loses 30 percent of its vitamin C soon after it is squeezed. The Real Vitamin and Mineral Book, Shari Lieberman and Nancy Brunning, Page 23
The following disorders and conditions interfere with the digestion and absorption of the necessary vitamins and minerals:
- Stress both emotional and physical
- Celiac Disease
- Crohn’s Disease
- Lactose Intolerance
- Bacterial, viral and parasitic infections
- Leaky Gut
Drugs can also seriously interfere with the absorption of vitamins and minerals. Some of the main offenders are:
It is widely recognized that many drugs interact with nutrients in the body, often causing depletion. Tetracycline, a widely used antibiotic interferes with the absorption of calcium, magnesium, potassium, zinc, and iron. Many other antibiotics interfere with the B- complex vitamins. Hormones in medications such as oral contraceptives appear to reduce the levels of some water soluble vitamins. The Vitamin and Mineral Book, Page 27
Our bodies are very sensitive to change, like a growth spurt, a stressful day, surgery, menopause, or pregnancy. Any of these events will cause stress both physically and emotionally. Our immune system will work harder to provide us with extra energy in order to set in motion our coping mechanisms. In order to process these stresses, our cells need more fuel than usual. Thus, we need more vitamins and minerals besides what we typically get. Some nutritionists might argue that this is the only time we should supplement. If our soils weren’t depleted, I was getting all of my food from my backyard, and I had no allergies or chronic health issues, I would only supplement during periods of change or stress. RDA stands for Recommended Dietary Allowance. It was designed to prevent severe vitamin and mineral deficiencies during World War II. Even now, more than six decades later, the RDA levels are still set for surviving rather than thriving. You will most likely not get beri beri or scurvy if you follow the RDA, but you will not be reaping the full benefits of vitamins B1 or C.
We know now that vitamin A does more than prevent night blindness, that thiamin prevents more than beriberi, and that vitamin C does more than prevent scurvy. Even more recently we discovered that vitamin D is not only crucial for bone health, but the amounts you need to take for preventing all sorts of conditions is several times the RDA. (Lieberman, 31)
But one size doesn’t fit all. We all have different backgrounds, medical histories, nutrient absorption, that the RDA can’t measure. It is impossible to follow a standardized allowance that would fit millions and millions of people’s needs. It is a reference point but not much more than that. There are other well-researched guidelines like SONA (Suggested Optimal Daily Nutritional Allowance) and ODI (Optimal Daily Intake) that recommend up to ten times higher doses for certain supplements than the RDA. Research some of these alternative guidelines and listen to what you body needs.p.