What Vitamins Should You Take?

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INTRODUCTION TO VITAMINS

“What vitamins should I take?” is a very common question, surrounded by a lot of misconceptions. You may be asking this question because a doctor recommended that you take vitamins, or you’re going through a life transition. You may be struggling with different aspects in your life and are looking to vitamins to correct those. Vitamins are healthy in and of themselves, but, more importantly, vitamins can kickstart a new, healthier, lifestyle. Vitamins are shown to be an accelerant of healthy behaviors – they can help people start to workout, accomplish their diets, and more!

Romy Block, MD, and Arielle Levitan, MD, co-founders of the brand and co-authors of the award winning book, "The Vitamin Solution."

CONFUSION AROUND VITAMINS

Vitamins can be confusing because you can hear a lot about them from different sources. Your best friend swears by hers, but the media says another one is better – even going into the retail stores, there are too many options and not enough assistance. Maybe you’ve spent time trying to shop for yourself in vitamin aisles or online marketplaces only to be overwhelmed and more confused than when you started. Fortunately, vitamin companies have developed online services to curate vitamins specifically for you using a personalized vitamin platform. Many of these services take your preferences and medical history into consideration and will send you one or more vitamins to take daily. There are two models; the first is a model where they’ll send you a packet of different vitamins to take daily, and the second is a model where the company will create a personalized multivitamin for your daily intake. Many people find it easier to take one vitamin rather than taking a plethora of pills, but whether you choose to use retail stores or use a personalized vitamin company, always consult with your medical provider.

VITAMINS THROUGH FOOD SOURCES

The best way to get your vitamins is through your food sources. A lot of the foods that you eat daily contain vitamins and supplements necessary for life. However, many people, Americans in particular, are living on diets which limit their natural vitamin intake. Even people who concentrate on eating enough fruits and vegetables can have trouble, because a lot of the food consumed comes from nutrient depleted soil or have nutrient deterioration at the time of consumption. Many people need to supplement their diet with vitamins.

COMMON PROBLEMS AND SUPPLEMENT SOLUTIONS

There are a few common problems with vitamin deficiencies. While the following are not a comprehensive list, they are some common issues, and the supplements recommended to fix those issues. If you’re experiencing anxiety or stress, you should look into taking magnesium, different B vitamins, or vitamin D. If you’re experiencing hair loss, you should look into taking biotin (paired with vitamin C), iron, or vitamin D3. For heart health, Coq10, magnesium, and vitamin D are all helpful. To stay hydrated, chlorine (paired with sodium), magnesium, and potassium are the best. For prenatal health, we recommend calcium, folic acid, iodine, omega 3s, and vitamin D3. To sleep better, we recommend taking iron, magnesium, B vitamins, and vitamin D3. Finally, a problem that a lot of people struggle with, weight loss, can be helped via iodine, iron, and vitamin B12. Always consult with your medical provider before beginning a vitamin regimen.

COVID-19, IMMUNITY, AND VITAMINS

While there is no vitamin regimen to prevent illness, including Covid-19, taking the right vitamins can definitely help boost your immune system. While the best way to do this is a personalized daily vitamin to help to address your own individual deficiencies, there are certain key vitamins that can help to boost immunity, specifically vitamin D3, vitamin C, and zinc.

MULTIVITAMINS

Multivitamins are complicated. Many of the multivitamins offered exceed the recommended doses for certain nutrients, and studies have shown that not only is this not helpful, it can actually be harmful to your body. However, there are upsides to taking a multivitamin, namely that, as mentioned above, a lot of lifestyle choices made in this day and age lead to unnoticed vitamin deficiencies. In fact, many people do feel better when they start to take a multivitamin that is geared towards their individual needs, but we recommend getting a personalized daily vitamin, rather than one available over-the-counter. Multivitamins, while they can be helpful, are never the exact right answer to ‘what vitamins should I take.’

COMMON MYTHS

Vitamins aren’t safe – Yes, vitamins are not regulated by the FDA, so some vitamins are better vitamins than others, but the real danger comes from taking supplements your body doesn’t need – certain vitamins can be toxic at high levels, so the best way to combat this danger is by consulting a doctor and taking a quiz to find your perfect vitamin mix.

Taking a multivitamin is of no use – While the nutrients provided by a multivitamin are not the same ones everybody needs, many people can benefit from the appropriate all-in-one vitamin. Additionally, your body does not just absorb the vitamins that it needs – there are certain vitamins that can harm you and your body in high doses, which is another reason you should look into a more personalized routine. As mentioned above, even a healthy diet does not guarantee a correct mix of essential nutrients. Certain vitamins are hard to come by in food, and different diets make that even worse. Taking the correct amount of the right vitamins is essential for full-body health.

Once I have a vitamin routine, I should stick to it – As people’s lives change, their vitamin needs change as well; you should be checking 1-2 times per year to make sure you’re still taking the best supplements for your health.

STAYING CONSISTENT

Once you know which vitamins you should be taking, the best thing to do is create a routine. If you take your vitamins around the same time every day, you get into a good habit, and your body will thank you for that. You likely won’t see or feel immediate changes; supplements can take weeks or months to integrate into your system, but patience and routine is key to seeing results. Remember, while getting in a routine is good, it’s always important to check once or twice a year to make sure that your needs haven’t changed. Additionally, always check in with a medical professional so you aren’t guessing about which supplements to take. Your doctor likely won’t be able to make a perfect recommendation as to which vitamins you should take, so the best way to find your perfect supplement match is through a personalized vitamin quiz.

VITAMINS THROUGH FOOD SOURCES

The best way to get your vitamins is through your food sources. A lot of the foods that you eat daily contain vitamins and supplements necessary for life. However, many people, Americans in particular, are living on diets which limit their natural vitamin intake. Even people who concentrate on eating enough fruits and vegetables can have trouble, because a lot of the food consumed comes from nutrient depleted soil or have nutrient deterioration at the time of consumption. Many people need to supplement their diet with vitamins.

MORE ABOUT PERSONALIZED VITAMINS

So what vitamins and supplements can you take for hydration?

  1. Potassium– This essential electrolyte helps power your muscles to function optimally. This includes not only the muscles you use to walk around and be active but also things like your heart. Potassium is useful to take in limited quantities as a part of an occasional supplement but not in very high doses as it can cause serious side effects.
  2. Sodium– While salt is something people think they must avoid in order to stay healthy, it turns out that many of us actually need extra salt at times. When we sweat or have a temperature we lose salt in great quantities. When we have low blood pressure or avoid processed foods we may actually need more sodium.
  3. Magnesium–Is an essential electrolyte that many people benefit from on a daily basis and when dehydrated. Magnesium plays a key role in hydration, muscle function, heart health, and more. It can be an important part of a custom daily vitamin (take our vitamin quiz here) and an extra supplement for hydration.
  4. Chloride- This key nutrient is often included in vitamins and supplements for hydration. Combined with sodium it helps the body hold on to vital fluids.

Sodium and potassium help regulate just about every essential bodily function. They do this by powering your cells to work properly. Magnesium is also an essential electrolyte for dehydration that helps your body properly hold onto the potassium it needs.

Beverages like Gatorade contain some of these electrolytes but it is often in combination with loads of sugar and other artificial additives. Hydration supplements such as Power Up™ are a more direct and effective way to ingest vital electrolytes before and after a workout (without any added sugar or caffeine).

So here are a few factors to consider when ordering vitamins online:

  1. The Source Matters- When buying vitamins, especially online, you want to make sure to get them from a reputable source. There are literally thousands of online vitamin retailers. Many use products from outside the US and questionable manufacturers.
  1. Quality Is key- There is no FDA regulation of vitamin and supplement products, thus there is not necessarily any oversight of these products. This can be quite scary! One way to guarantee a better product is to look for a USP or GMP verification.
  1. Safety Is Essential-Vitamins are like any other medication in that they can be dangerous if not take in safe amounts. Certain products can be harmful to your health just like taking too much medication or taking the wrong medication for your needs. Read more about supplement safety and vitamin overdoses.
  1. A Doctor Created Vitamin is the way to go- Medical knowledge is important to help determine which vitamins each person should be taking based on their needs. Familiarity with the scientific research about vitamins and their uses in specific circumstances is essential to determine which vitamins are needed for each individual based on who they are, their habits, and medical issues.
  1. Personalize your Vitamins – A personalized approach is key. We do not all eat the same, live the same, or have the same health concerns. We do not need to take the same vitamins. Getting a personalized all in one daily vitamin is the best way to meet your needs and take no more and no less than your body requires. Take our personalized vitamin quiz here for a doctor created daily vitamin.

How do you find a vitamin regimen that works for you?

  1. Keep it simple-No need to have to line up many bottles and set multiple timers for your daily vitamins. A simple all in one daily vitamin (take two pills daily) can do the trick.
  2. Medically sound-Make sure that the vitamins you take are based on medical research and are in the proper doses for your individual needs.
  3. Make it Personal-Taking a personalized daily vitamin based on your individual needs. Your diet, lifestyle, and health concerns should dictate what you need. You probably don’t need to take the same things as your friend or neighbor.
  4. Let Science Lead the wayOur doctors cull the medical research to determine which vitamins are safe and useful to take.
  5. Make it a Habit–You must find a way to make taking your daily vitamins a part of your regular routine. You can set an alarm on your phone or pair your vitamins with another regular routine– think coffee, brushing teeth, or something else you do routinely.

Why Take a Multivitamin? Is a Daily Vitamin Necessary?

The role of standard multivitamins has been called into question lately. And it very well should be. Recent studies have questioned multivitamins’ usefulness and suggested their potential for harm. To those of us in the medical field, this is not surprising. Every medicine that a doctor recommends (including things found over the counter) has potential side effects, so why should multivitamin supplements be any different?

In fact, they are no different. Many of the multivitamin supplements on the market today far exceed recommended doses of certain nutrients. Research has shown that these excessive vitamin doses can be harmful. For example, too much Vitamin A may lead to higher rates of cancer. Likewise, the US Preventative Task Force has not recommended the regular use of some vitamin supplements at all, stating insufficient data exists to justify their use.

On the flip side, we know from years of seeing women in our medical practice, that most of us are Vitamin D deficient and many of us lack enough iron. We don’t eat meat the way we used to and we wear sunscreen that causes us to avoid the sun’s light (for good, health reasons like skin cancer prevention). We may note symptoms of nutritional deficiencies like hair loss (see our blog on vitamins for hair loss in women) or fatigue. Or we may feel OK but be unaware of harm to our bodies, such as loss in our bone density, that may one day lead to osteoporosis.

So you ask, why take a multivitamin?

  1. Nutritional Deficiencies- We are not perfect in our diets. Even the “healthiest” of eaters fall short on something– it may be something such as Vitamin D which is not readily found in most food sources.
  2. Low Vitamin Levels in the Food Supply- After years of poor farming practices the soil has been demineralized. Our fruits and vegetables are grown for shelf life and appearance not nutrients.
  3. We don’t eat the way we used to– While many of us have adopted healthier habits, this has actually led to lower levels of important nutrients such as iron (mostly found in red meat) and iodine (mostly found in table salt or processed foods).
  4. Feel Better-It turns out that many people feel much better once they start taking a multivitamin that is geared toward their individual needs.
  5. Take only what you need— Get a PERSONALIZED daily vitamin

Is it possible to take too many vitamins? A Vitamin Overdose Is a Real Thing

If you do not take the correct amounts of vitamins, what can happen from a vitamin overdose:

  1. Kidney Problems- Ranging from kidney stones to actually kidney failure. Vitamins as common as vitamin C taken in excess amounts can be harmful. Other culprits include Calcium, Magnesium, and herbal supplements.
  2. GI side effects- Stomach aches, constipation, diarrhea and other gastrointestinal symptoms can be caused by many common supplement overdoses including Vitamin D, magnesium, certain B vitamins, and many herbal products.
  3. Muscle aches-While many supplements can help with muscle aches, others when taken in excess can cause them. Especially beware of certain supplements touted for cholesterol help such as red yeast rice and niacin.
  4. Liver Problems-Your liver can take a hit from excessive doses of supplements, especially the fat-soluble vitamins which accumulate in the liver such as Vitamins D, E, A, and K. But others such as Niacin (a B vitamin) and herbal products can cause liver damage. People have ended up needing liver transplants after taking toxic doses of supplements.
  5. Changes in Mental Status- When toxic levels of vitamins accumulate in your body they can cause your cognition (thinking) to be affected and in severe cases coma can result. Especially lethal can be very high doses of calcium or vitamin D.
  6. Headaches- can occur related to many common supplements if taken in excess and especially if using poor quality supplements which may contain various additives that may or may not be listed on the label. See more here about why these lists are not accurate.

When asking “What vitamins should I take?” Here are some key points:

  1. We are not all the same. We all have different diets, lifestyles, and health concerns. Why would it make sense that we take the same vitamins?
  2. A personalized approach is the way to go.
  3. When the New York Times or the US Preventive Services Task Force makes blanket claims about vitamins they are often looking at one size fits all answers. The truth is a bit more nuanced. It often takes a trained medical professional to help sort through all of this confusing information. We are here to help!
  4. There is lots of valid research supporting the use of certain vitamins for certain people in certain amounts. There is not as much to suggest that a generic off the shelf multivitamin has great benefits for whole populations.

Our Doctors’ Tips on How to Stay Healthy at Home

And what about that most essential concern of immune support? It turns out that many of the other things you do for general health will also help with immunity. These include eating well, exercising regularly, and getting decent sleep. And of course, trying to keep your stress levels in check (read more here on combatting anxiety and stress in these trying times). Our Immune Blast Situational Supplement can also be helpful at times like these (some extra vitamin C, zinc, and D3 can benefit you when you are coming down with something).  And of course, we would never forget to mention the role of a daily vitamin routine in improving health.

UnBElievable Bs are a group of B vitamins that also play a key role in the natural treatment of anxiety. They are most important in aiding nerves to function properly and this often means relaxing nerves that are overly keyed up. Sounds like just what you need?

Marvelous Magnesium is also high on our list of anxiety supplements that work. This important mineral plays many key roles in the body, mostly helping nerves and muscles to function optimally. So how does magnesium also work as a supplement for muscle pain?  Magnesium helps muscles, including those in your blood vessels to relax. Yes, we said relax. Just like you need to! We can’t underplay the helpfulness of this supplement for stress and anxiety. To find out exactly how much to take, take our personalized vitamin quiz.

Vitamin D has by no means been proven as a vitamin to take for stress or anxiety. However, we would like to suggest that it may play a role. Wait, aren’t we doctors and all about the evidence? Yes, we are. But indulge us on this for a moment. Science has shown that Vitamin D deficiency is linked to low levels of serotonin. Serotonin is one of the main chemicals in your brain where low levels are known to cause depression and anxiety. Does not take our M.D degrees to see the connection. Thus, we think it’s safe to suggest that taking a safe amount of vitamin D is a good idea for those looking for a supplement for anxiety.  And it’s a good idea for most of us to take some vitamin D for many reasons, including its important role in immunity.  Figuring out what that amount is, requires a personalized vitamin and you can take our vitamin quiz here. Find out more about immune support.

It turns out there are many simple things you can do beyond taking vitamins for anxiety and stress. The good old fashioned lifestyle suggestions such as regular exercise and good sleep are still very much advised. In addition to those lifestyle basics, it’s also worth spending some time to learn the practice of mindfulness. There are tons of books, Youtube videos, and even phone apps available (check out the Calm app). These are great tools to add to your armamentarium.

Do NOT take unproven herbs and supplements for anxiety. There are many many things out there being advertised as vitamins for anxiety. Beware of herbals in particular. Rhodiola, Valerian, and the like are hard to obtain in pure and safe forms. These are the types of products that can be laden with unlisted ingredients and contain little of what is listed on the bottle. More on supplement safety here.

Do NOT take any product that is a “glandular” product or suggests it is made to help enhance your adrenal or thyroid glands. Many or most of these supplements for adrenal fatigue or thyroid boost are full of ground-up animal glands (eeeew) and are both unsafe and potentially harmful. The only vitamin for thyroid support we endorse is iodine and that must be in safe amounts (which are often lower than those put into these products. Read more about Iodine here.

Do NOT take big vitamin packs. These often contain more products than you really want or need to take (8 pills daily?..yuck). Most people do not stick to these complicated regimens as they develop side effects from some of the pack components.  Frankly, they get sick of the whole thing. And they are often unnecessary or unsafe amounts of vitamins.  Keep it simple, take just what you need.

And one more thing… Last but far from least, involve your doctor in this conversation. We would never want you to think that we can take the place of your actual health care providers. We can try to help, however since they might be busy right now! Find out what vitamins you may need by taking our personalized vitamin quiz.

Vitamins for Immune Support: What supplements can I take to not get sick?

Some vitamins that help with boosting immune health can include iron, vitamin C, Vitamin D3, and certain B vitamins. Some may benefit more than others from supplementing these nutrients. For example, someone who does not eat red meat may need more iron than a voracious carnivore.  Likewise, many people are deficient in Vitamin D, but the degree varies based on a variety of things including ethnicity, where you live, medical conditions, and more. Certain electrolytes such as magnesium can also be useful in keeping you healthy.  Omega 3s can also play an important role in immune health. Check out our vegan Omega 3 Essential Add on. Taking a personalized all in one vitamin is the ideal way to get the exact nutrients that will benefit you in the right amounts for your individual needs. These are vitamins that may help with preventing you from getting sick.

We created our Immune Blast Situational Supplement exactly for this reason, with hopes that carrying this hand packet with you will be a convenient way to support your immune system when you need it most.  A Situational Supplement is a great addition to a personalized daily vitamin.

What vitamins should I take for heart health?

First, let’s talk about a few nonvitamin options for heart disease prevention.  The role of lifestyle should not be underestimated in protecting your heart.  Keeping an active lifestyle with regular exercise (goal of 30 minutes most days of the week), a healthy diet (see here for some suggestions, we strongly recommend a Mediterranean diet), and adequate sleep.  Do not underestimate the role of sleep in health and longevity, especially treating sleep apnea if not diagnosed. 

Of course, the most essential lifestyle intervention for improving and maintaining heart disease is to quit smoking. Stopping this nasty habit is likely the fastest way to reduce your risk of heart disease. Smoking raises the risk of heart disease multi-fold and stopping smoking can bring you back to an average risk of heart disease within two years.

When pondering the best vitamins for heart health, a few come to mind. Omega 3s (often found in the form of fish oil) are frequently mentioned. It turns out that they can play a role in preventing heart disease among other things. The reason why Omega 3s help with this is most likely because they lower triglycerides and raise HDL cholesterol. Several studies show compelling evidence that points to Omega 3s for helping with heart health. See more about our Vegan Omega 3s that can be added to any custom all in one daily vitamin here.

Another essential vitamin for heart health is magnesium. Magnesium is an element that plays many roles in health. It is a key component for helping cells function optimally and has been shown to be beneficial for numerous conditions from migraines to IBS to muscle aches. It is no surprise that magnesium is one of the best vitamins for heart health. It has been shown to help reduce blood pressure, cardiac arrhythmias, and possibly prevent heart disease.  Many of us are deficient in magnesium (even with normal blood testing!) and can benefit from taking this supplement as part of a personalized vitamin plan (take our personalized vitamin quiz here).

Vitamin D has also been shown to be an important vitamin to take for heart health. People who are deficient in vitamin D (which actually turns out to be the majority of Americans) have higher rates of heart disease. Most of us need to take supplemental vitamin D in order to raise our levels but taking too much can also be bad for your heart. Too much vitamin D may cause excess serum calcium, and in theory, this can cause deposition of calcium in blood vessels. So finding that safe and helpful amount of vitamin D is essential. This can be determined based on factors about you including where you live, your ethnicity, and your diet. Take our personalized vitamin quiz here.

No discussion of heart health vitamins and supplements would be complete without CoQ10. This enzyme has had some data to suggest it’s useful in heart disease prevention. It also is known to help prevent muscle aches in those who take statin drugs for lowering cholesterol. CoQ 10 on its own in high doses is probably not needed or essential (and gets costly) but it can be helpful as a part of a personalized all in one daily vitamin.

 

It turns out that taking multivitamins has shown to help prevent heart disease. A study done in the Journal of American Nutrition showed a significant reduction in mortality from heart disease in a group taking multivitamins as compared to those not taking them. Imagine what taking the right vitamins for your needs could do for you! Take our personalized vitamin quiz to find out.

What vitamins or supplements should I take for weight loss? The question everyone is asking our doctors…

How does taking the right vitamins help with weight loss? Well, more energy is a great start. If you are taking key nutrients to help with your energy such as iron and B12, you may find that your newfound energy can be helpful in motivating you to exercise more and lead a healthier lifestyle. Feeling like you have the energy to make it through the day without unneeded caffeine or other quick snacks to boost energy, may ultimately assist with losing weight.

In addition to vitamins for energy, taking the right supplements may help with weight loss by reducing your craving for other foods. When we are vitamin deficient our body is always wanting to eat something to satiate its needs. If you take the right vitamins for your needs (take our vitamin quiz here to find the right vitamins) you may find that you do not crave high calorie or unhealthy foods as much since your body is getting the right nutrients to function optimally.

Some supplements that may be part of a personalized vitamin regimen, such as iodine, can actually help to boost your metabolism. Iodine is an essential component for your thyroid to function. The thyroid regulates metabolism. Taking a proper and safe amount of iodine can help to support your thyroid so that it functions properly.

Another factor that comes into play when determining what supplements to take for weight loss, is sleep. Yes, sleep. It turns out that sleep can actually play a key role in weight loss.  Did you know that your body makes essential hormones that help with weight loss while you sleep? Taking the right vitamins for insomnia and sleep can then facilitate weight loss by aiding in getting deep and meaningful sleep.  It turns out that some nutrients that may be in your personalized vitamin subscription may assist in getting deeper more meaningful sleep–these may include magnesium, Vitamin D3, certain B vitamins and iron.  If you can get restful quality sleep, your body may respond not only by feeling more rested the next day but also with the weight loss you have been hoping for.

It turns out that vitamins are no different. Your vitamin needs are likely very different from your friends or neighbors. You eat differently, have different habits, and different health issues. Why would you all take the same vitamins? As physicians we have learned over the years, how to best help our patients figure out which vitamins to take based on a variety of simple questions. And now, via the Vous Vitamin™ platform, determining what vitamins to take can be done through a personalized vitamin quiz.

What are the best prenatal vitamins to take?

It turns out that, like with other vitamins, prenatal vitamin needs vary based on the individual. Pregnant and postpartum women are not all the same– they eat differently, have different lifestyles, and have other health concerns. Therefore they have different vitamin needs in terms of both actual vitamins and doses of the right vitamins.  Taking a personalized vitamin quiz is a great way to help determine exactly which vitamins you need.

First, let’s talk about the vitamins that all women need to establish in order to support a healthy pregnancy.  This includes the mothers’ health, the baby’s health, and development.  There are certain nutrients that are essential to this cause. These include folic acid, iron, calcium, iodine, Vitamin D3, and omega 3s. 

So why are these important?

Folic acid is often talked about as an essential prenatal vitamin. This is because it has been clearly established that mothers who do not take in sufficient amounts of folic acid have babies with a much higher rate of birth defects, specifically those related to the brain and spinal cord. These babies can develop a severely disabling complication called spina bifida, which often requires major spinal or brain surgery.  The good news is that this risk can virtually be eliminated by administering the right amount of folic acid.

Similar to folic acid, taking the right amount of iodine in pregnancy (and immediately before and after) is also important. Iodine helps support the mother’s thyroid function and in turn also the baby’s. Babies who do not get adequate iodine can suffer major issues with brain development and cognitive problems. Taking the proper amount of iodine, as recommended by the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists is important. Taking too much can be harmful so caution must be used in dosing.

Iron is important since it is what builds and fuels red blood cells. Blood cells carry oxygen to all developing cells. Pregnancy is notorious for sapping a mother of her body’s iron stores. This iron deficiency can have profound and long-lasting effects causing anemia, fatigue (as if having a baby isn’t tiring enough!), thinning hair, low energy, strange cravings (think eating clay and dirt), restless legs, and more. It is especially important to continue taking a multivitamin with iron after pregnancy whether you are nursing or not.

Calcium is a component of most prenatal vitamins because it is very important both as to its role as an element that is involved in many chemical reactions in the body, but also because it plays a role in both fetal and maternal bone health. In a pregnant mother’s body, the baby’s bones take priority and the baby takes the mother’s calcium. Unfortunately, if the mother doesn’t have enough calcium this comes from her own bones. Thus, taking in enough calcium is key. While we typically recommend getting as much calcium as possible from the diet, taking some calcium via a prenatal supplement is especially important during the prenatal and postnatal periods (especially if nursing when calcium is also being used to create milk).

Vitamin D3 is an essential nutrient for moms and babies because it is actually a hormone. Most of us are vitamin D deficient in varying degrees unless we take a supplement. Vitamin D plays a role in myriad bodily functions, including immune health, bone development, mood, muscle strength, and more. There is some suggestion that women with normal vitamin D levels may have lower rates of preterm labor and infections after delivery.  This makes sense given the role of vitamin D with muscle function and immunity. Our experience is that most women benefit from varying amounts of vitamin D supplementation both before, during, and after pregnancy depending on a variety of factors (take our personalized vitamin quiz to find out what you need). Vitamin D is also key for and in the postnatal period, especially because of its role in energy, mood, and more.

Lastly, but certainly not least Omega 3s are a very important part of any prenatal and postnatal vitamin regimen. These essential fatty acids play a key role in preventing preterm labor as well as a baby’s cognitive and visual development. They are also important for the postpartum mother because of their potential role as anti-inflammatories, in blood clot reduction and mood elevation. The American College of Obstetrics and Gynecology recommends women take supplemental Omega 3s due to concerns about excessive seafood consumption during pregnancy and potential mercury contamination. A non-fish source of Omega 3s is a great way to avoid the potential for mercury contamination. (Find out about our vegan Omega 3s derived from algae here).

Is it good to take Omega 3 Supplements? Is fish oil the only way to get Omega 3s?

So how do we know Omega 3s are good for heart health? There have been a number of big studies showing benefits to Omega 3s.  While they are not known to be helpful for lowering LDL or “bad cholesterol” they actually are good at reducing the other “bad type of cholesterol,” triglycerides, and in raising HDL or good cholesterol. Modifying these components of your cholesterol profile (also helped by losing weight and exercising) are great ways to lower your overall cardiac risk.  The “controversy” stems from some studies that did not prove a reduction in cardiac risk but they were very limited studies. They followed people for a short period of time and while the group as a whole didn’t show great risk reduction when taking Omega 3s some subset for sure showed major impact, such as African Americans who had a 77% cardiac risk reduction. Since this is a group with a higher baseline risk of cardiac risk it may be that studying this population showed an exaggerated effect. Nonetheless, this is promising for the role of omega 3s in reducing risk of heart attack and stroke.  Another study showed that adding omega 3s to traditional cholesterol medicines helped to further reduce cardiac mortality.  Clearly, there is some association between omega 3s and improved heart health.

There is also some data to suggest that omega 3 s may have blood-pressure-lowering effects. This remains inconclusive, but it may also contribute to the benefits of cardiovascular health.

Why else should you take omega 3s? Their benefits extend beyond cardiac risk reduction to other realms. There is a great deal of data suggesting that omega 3s benefit brain health in several ways. They have been shown to help control ADD symptoms in children. On the other end of the life cycle, omega 3s may play a role in reducing memory trouble and dementia. Clearly, omega 3s have some positive effects on brain function. Some speculate that these important fats may help enhance the function of nerve cells. We may not understand the exact mechanism but we do know that omega 3s help brain function and these positive effects add to the case for taking them.

Another important role for omega 3s is in pregnancy and nursing. Just as omega 3s may help with memory and behavior in kids and adults, they also seem to help with a developing baby’s brain. Any prenatal regimen should include omega 3s as an essential component as should a vitamin for women who are nursing. Whatever positive effects omega 3s and fish oil have on our brains seems to also play an important role in the developing brain so much so that the American College of Obstetrics and Gynecology insist on omega 3s for all pregnant and breastfeeding mothers. From this, we can extrapolate that the effects of fish oil and omega 3s on memory and brain health in adults are probably also significant and they can be used with hopes of reducing the risk of dementia and to preserve memory. Omega 3s not only help with prenatal brain health. They also reduce preterm birth rates, clearly an added benefit.

If omega 3s help with memory, brain health, and heart health, it is also not surprising that these properties help other body systems as well. It seems that omega 3s may help with many of these things because they have an anti-inflammatory effect. It is then not surprising that fish oil and omega 3s have a role in helping with joint pain and arthritis. These anti-inflammatory properties can help relieve arthritis pain by reducing inflammation and reducing the need for other medication in those with arthritis.  They may also help reduce dry eyes.

There is promising data to suggest that omega 3s may be helpful in the prevention of colon and breast cancer. While this is by no means a guarantee, taking omega 3s seems to have many potential benefits.

Are there any side effects of omega 3s? There can be. Omega 3s pose a theoretical risk of increased bleeding (their blood-thinning characteristics may be part of how they help reduce cardiovascular risk). It is recommended to stop them 7-10 days prior to surgical procedures. In day to day life, bleeding risk from omega 3s is not typically seen.

The other potential downsides to omega 3s are namely GI side effects. People can experience a range of issues including upset stomach, burping, and diarrhea on occasion. However, it is our experience that with a high-quality omega 3 product most people can acclimate to ingesting these pills by taking a lower dose for a few weeks and gradually working up to a full dose.

What about Omega 3s causing fishy aftertaste? It turns out that this is only an issue with fish-based products. Taking a vegan omega 3 made from algae will solve this issue. So, on that note… Try our Vous Vitamin Omega 3 Essential Add On! You too can get all of the benefits that we discussed. While you’re at it, take our personalized vitamin quiz to get your personalized daily vitamin.

What vitamins should I take? Doctors recommend these vitamins:

You can search the vitamin aisles of your local retailer for hours and consult with various online sources all day, but most likely you will end up more confused than when you started. You may come home with a bag full of vitamins that are potentially harmful together or with other medications that you take. Even worse, you may come home with products that contain unnecessary and potentially harmful ingredients. Vitamins can be a complicated business. A doctor’s expertise is needed to navigate these waters. We wrote The Vitamin Solution: Two Doctors Clear the Confusion About Vitamins and your Health to help provide people with useful information. We also created Vous Vitamin so everyone can have our expertise at their fingertips.

Vitamins for thyroid problems? Myth or reality?

Are there vitamins for low thyroid? The answer is not a simple yes or no. It is more of a yes, but… There are supplements that can help support your thyroid gland. Namely, these include iodine- this important element and electrolyte is useful in safe doses to help your thyroid perform its natural tasks. The thyroid uses iodine to make its hormones so if you are deficient in iodine, the gland can’t do its job and you become hypothyroid. We primarily get iodine from iodinated food products such as iodized salt or processed foods. However, these days many of us are attempting to avoid table salt and use other salts such as Kosher or Sea salts which are not iodinated. Likewise, we avoid processed foods when possible. Thus taking a healthy dose of iodine via a supplement is advisable, especially when pregnant. However, more is not necessarily better. Taking too much is not healthy and can backfire. Take our personalized vitamin quiz to get the right dose of vitamins for your needs.

Another vitamin that has been used in certain thyroid conditions includes selenium. It may be helpful in certain autoimmune phenomena but its benefit has not fully been proven. It may help prevent eye complications that are associated with various forms of eye diseases. However, it is not recommended for the general population interested in vitamins to help their thyroid.

There are many products on the market touted as supplements for thyroid health. Some also claim to be “natural” thyroid replacement products. The concern with these is that most often they are composed of ground-up glands of pigs and cows. The manufacturers hope to replace the human thyroid hormone with this impure and poorly replicated version. These products are not regulated well and their contents can be extremely varied from one batch to the other, often containing additional illicit ingredients. It is our strong recommendation to avoid any products that claim to be a form of “natural thyroid hormone” as they are far less natural to your body than the legitimate forms of thyroid hormone that are prescribed by a physician.

Lastly, we would be remiss in talking about vitamins and your thyroid if we didn’t mention determining what vitamin deficiencies you may have that cause the symptoms of low thyroid. Many of the symptoms that people think are due to low thyroid (low energy, thinning hair, GI symptoms, fatigue) are often due to other vitamin deficiencies such as Vitamin D, iron, and some B vitamins. Getting a personalized vitamin tailored to your unique needs is a great way to feel your best. Take our personalized vitamin survey to get a custom daily vitamin just for you.

How long do I need to take vitamins to see an effect?

Certain nutrients take months to be repleted (such as Iron). Others can take up to a year (such as vitamin D and E which are fat soluble).  When people look for personalized vitamins because they want vitamins for energy and to relieve fatigue, they may need iron, vitamin D, and certain B vitamins that help give you energy. These combinations may help initially with some symptoms but it can take 6 months or more for some of these vitamins for energy to take full effect.  In other words, some aspects of a custom vitamin may be helpful in a few week’s time while other benefits may not be apparent for months.

Other components of personalized vitamins may have benefits that take years to produce an effect. For example vitamins for your bones can take years to show they are helping. That is because the absorption of vitamin D, Calcium, and magnesium into the bone and their role in strengthening bones is a slow and prolonged process.  We spend the first 35 years of our lives building up our bones and the rest of our lives trying to keep and maximize this strength.  Bone health is a slow process to be sure, but one that pays off over decades as we age without fractures and other downfalls of osteoporosis.

People often look to vitamins for sleep. It turns out that taking a personalized vitamin quiz (take ours here) to get personalized vitamins can help with sleep as well. Unlike taking a nightly sleeping pill. Getting the right vitamins in an all-in-one daily vitamin can also help with sleep, over time. Repleting important nutrients such as iron can help with restless legs and magnesium with muscle aches. Magnesium also has important functions in hastening sleep. However, none of these things happen in just a short duration of time. It takes time for iron stores to rebuild and for magnesium to take effect. So it also turns out that vitamins for sleep are also vitamins that give you energy since better sleep leads to better energy over time.

Vitamins for heart health also can take time to show effects. Preventing heart disease is certainly not something one can hope to see in weeks or months, but rather this an effect seen after years of taking the right combination of vitamins for heart health.

What vitamins should I take to prevent heart disease? Recent studies may not tell the whole story…

The JAMA study, as commented upon in Consumer Report and other major news outlets suggested that certain supplements to prevent heart attacks do not work. That is a very presumptive takeaway and in our eyes does not at all mean that there is no role for vitamins in the prevention of heart attacks.  This group of researchers examined a large group (over 70,000) people retrospectively (i.e. looking back at data collected for other research) and found that those people taking fish oil supplements did not have lower rates of heart disease than those who were not. Sounds logical and conclusive, right?

Not exactly… The study design itself had some limits. It only looked at people taking these supplements for an average of 4 years for one (some as little as one year). That’s not very long in the scheme of things, especially in a population of people in their middle ages or older, who are likely to be dealing with heart disease. No one would expect anyone to be able to undo a lifetime of potential risk factors for heart disease to be miraculously undone in a few years. If we could invent the vitamin to prevent heart disease in that span of time, it would be a miracle!

In addition, they did not look closely at the quality of the supplements or even the amounts of fish oil people were taking. They were in fact taking a large range of doses, as low as 226mg per day when the therapeutic recommended dose is up to 1200mg of EPA. Thus, we find it is particularly hard to extrapolate much useful information from this study.

The Journal of Nutrition did suggest that women who took a multivitamin for over three years had a lower risk of death from heart-related causes. This data, in combination with many other studies (including the above-mentioned studies in JAMA and AMA), suggest that there are in fact some vitamins that in the right amounts for the right people may have benefit in protecting against heart disease. These vitamins may include proper doses of fish oil, folic acid, magnesium, vitamin D, and others.

What about Gummy Vitamins? Are they good for you? Find out what our Doctors think… The truth is, most people can tolerate and actually do not mind swallowing vitamins in tablet form if they are the right size, shape, and have the proper coating. At Vous Vitamin we worked long and hard when creating our custom daily vitamins to make sure they were easy to swallow smooth coating. But why else take gummy vitamins? Some people actually like them and think of them as a daily treat or type of candy.  This may help if you have a hard time getting into a good routine of taking vitamins. However, to be clear, there are some downsides to this delivery format for vitamins. What could possibly be wrong with gummy vitamins for adults? It turns out that some of the contents of gummy vitamins may not be all that desirable for many people. For example, the gelatin in many of them raises issues for those who are vegetarian or keep a kosher diet. Many (not all) contain animal-sourced gelatin. Also, they can be very high in sugar content. Who wants to take in tons of sugar with something that is supposed to improve your health? All of that gelatinous, sticky material filled with sugar is of course less than ideal for your teeth and dental hygiene. So are gummy vitamins good for you? Not exactly. Not only is all the sugar harmful to your teeth and to your diet, but they can also be highly caloric, sometimes 50-100 calories daily.  I am sure most of us would rather save our calories for the actual foods we enjoy. Do gummy vitamins contain the same vitamins as other vitamins? Often they do not. It seems that their manufacturers have trouble putting all of the nutrients into this form that is still edible and tasty, thus they often forgo significant quantities of certain vitamins in order to maintain flavor and make room for all the additives that must go into the gummy formulation. Certain nutrients are harder to come by in gummy vitamins, such as iron and calcium, as these are hard to suspend in significant digestible quantities in this format.

Why do people stop taking vitamins? Our simple solution to keep taking the right vitamins for you.

Why do people stop taking vitamins? Turns out that there are a few reasons that people give up on their supplements and have poor vitamin adherence. Sometimes they experience side effects. For example, many multivitamins that contain iron can cause different gastrointestinal side effects, typically an upset stomach, constipation, and or nausea.

It turns out that taking that many of the types of iron found in traditional off the shelf multivitamins can be likely to cause these issues. However, certain forms of iron, especially when paired with certain other nutrients, can avoid these pesky problems. At Vous Vitamin® we worked hard to find a form of iron (iron as carbonyl) that is particularly nontaxing on the GI tract. Likewise, we pair it with the proper nutrients that both aid in absorption, (such as vitamin C) and can balance out the sometimes constipating effects of iron (magnesium). Take our personalized vitamin quiz to get a custom vitamin tailored to your needs.

So, what else causes people to not take vitamins and have poor vitamin adherence? Often they develop pill fatigue. Some people try custom vitamin packs that contain numerous, sometimes large, and unpalatable pills to be taken daily or several times daily. These can be unpleasant to take. After a while, many people give up on these packs altogether. Besides, they don’t love having to store large boxes of packets and to have to dispose of all of the packaging several times daily, let alone the environmental implications of all that plastic.

Some people are spotty in taking vitamins because they simply forget to take them. Easy! Put them somewhere that is near something you never forget. It may be next to your coffee maker, your toothbrush, or your phone. We can all also benefit from technology and set daily alarms to remind us to take our vitamins and improve vitamin adherence. Taking your vitamins can in fact be an enjoyable and calming part of your daily routine.

People often tell us they stopped taking their vitamins because they weren’t sure they were “working”. While it may be hard to know what your vitamins are or aren’t doing for you, the benefits will unfold over time. However, that time frame is long and it can often take months to years to really reap the benefits. Certain effects, such as help with thinning hair can take 6 months or more to improve, while other benefits can be seen more quickly. People often notice their nails improving in weeks or they may feel more energetic relatively quickly. Other effects, such as building bone strength, is a benefit of custom vitamins that may never be recognized as it is something that is simply preventing future problems with fractures. Generally speaking, slow and steady wins the race with vitamins. Your commitment to take the right vitamins means you are in it for the long haul. Remember, good things come to those who wait!

Some patients tell us they stop taking vitamins when they run out and don’t take the time to get replacement vitamins. We have a solution… subscription vitamins! Make your life easier and get a subscription that automatically renews and keeps you well-stocked with custom vitamins that are exactly what you need.  Have your all-in-one custom daily vitamin shipped to your door so you never run out and vitamin adherence will not be a problem. Take our personalized vitamin quiz to find out exactly the right vitamins for your diet, lifestyle, and best health.

Our Simple Guide to Men’s Health: Tips to Figure out the Best Men’s Multivitamin For You.

While men tend not to have the same issues with bone density that women do, they do tend to want to build and maintain their muscle strength.  This requires certain key nutrients. Specifically, Vitamin D3 is important. This vitamin is hard to come by via food sources and is only obtained via sunlight, but even so, few of us get enough vitamin D this way and need to take proper and safe amounts via a supplement. Figuring out just how much to take is the key (take our personalized vitamin quiz here to help determine your needs).

Another important vitamin for men can be magnesium.  This important element is key for muscle strength and function. What is the point of getting protein to build strong muscles if your muscles don’t have what they need to work optimally? Magnesium does just that. It helps all your muscles contract smoothly (we will spare you the detailed biochem on this but you may remember some of those ion channels from back in high school bio… it’s that stuff).  The interesting thing about magnesium is that it not only helps your body’s skeletal muscles work, but it also helps fuel all of your muscles, including your heart and blood vessels (yes, they have teeny tiny muscles in them).  Taking magnesium can be important for heart health and blood pressure. It also can be helpful in a smoothly functioning GI tract, since your gut is also one big muscle.

Magnesium is not found in significant amounts in many off the shelf one a day men’s multivitamins. The best men’s multivitamins contain more than the typical “one a day” dosing. Most men need approximately 300mg daily of magnesium to help support muscle strength and heart health. But amounts can vary.  Taking the right multivitamin for men should include an appropriate dose of magnesium. Our custom vitamin survey can help you get what you need.

In addition to supporting muscle strength and heart health, the best multivitamins for men may also take into account hair loss. We know that many men suffer from thinning hair or hair loss. And there are in fact vitamins for thinning hair. This process in men is in part hormonal, but vitamin deficiencies can play a role in hair loss. A good multivitamin for men can address thinning hair by providing nutrients to support hair growth. These can include iron (yes men can be iron deficient too, as often their total body iron stores are low), Vitamin D3, and also biotin. Biotin is a B vitamin that is an essential building block for hair. When iron is a part of a custom vitamin regimen it should be paired with vitamin C for proper absorption. Find out what your custom one a day vitamin might look like by taking our vitamin quiz.

When looking at things that men look for in a multivitamin, prostate health is also important. It turns out, vitamins for prostate health are a complicated subject. Many vitamins that have been suggested to be healthy for the prostate have proven not to do much. Some have even been shown to be harmful. We suggest, that less is more in this realm. Some key nutrients such as vitamin E have been shown to be harmful in higher doses. Thus sticking to a lower dose of E to help with other potential benefits (heart, immunity) is recommended. Some benefits may be seen from lycopene and selenium but this is still not overwhelming data and some recommend only supplementing if proven to have prostate cancer or other illnesses. Vitamin D is important for prostate health and should be included in most men’s multivitamins at proper doses.

A Surprising Way to stop Hair Loss: The Best Vitamins to take For Thinning Hair in Women and Me

It turns out that there are some medical problems that can cause hair loss in women and men. These could be thyroid problems or some autoimmune conditions. However, this is rare. Most of the time we test for these issues and blood work is normal. So what is causing thinning hair?

It depends. In men, there is a natural process of hair loss. Men tend to lose hair around the crown of their heads and forehead as a part of typical aging. Women can also have this “male pattern hair loss” when they have excess testosterone or other changes in hormone balance (aka. menopause or taking certain hormones).  There are certain prescription medications such as minoxidil that can be useful for this. However, they are both costly and have benefits only if you continue using them forever.

So, what else can cause hair loss? Actually, one of the most common causes of hair loss in women and in part for men is vitamin deficiencies. It turns out that many of the people we see have vitamin deficiencies causing thinning hair or hair loss.

You ask, what vitamins cause hair loss? Typically iron and vitamin D are some of the culprits.  Many of us are iron deficient and do not know it. We can have normal blood work that does not show anemia on a basic blood count but still have low total body iron stores, to the point that we see thinning hair, fatigue, and brittle or cracking nails.

Vitamin D deficiency is very common today, with most of us being deficient to some extent depending on who we are, where we live, and our lifestyle.  Replacing vitamin D and iron in proper doses and forms can be part of the supplements to take for thinning hair.

So how do we know what are the best vitamins to take for hair loss in women or men?

It turns out that we all have individual needs. It is essential to get the right doses of iron in a form that is tolerable (some types of iron cause upset stomach or constipation). It is also important when taking vitamins for thinning hair that the iron is paired with a sensible amount of Vitamin C to ensure proper absorption.

Vitamin D should be taken in doses that are based on a person’s individual needs. This can be determined based on where they live, sun exposure, skin color, and health conditions among other things. In choosing hair loss vitamins recognize that vitamins for hair growth will vary from person to person in exact amounts. To find out what you might need take our vitamin quiz and get a personalized all in one vitamin that helps hair loss.

Other vitamins for hair loss in women and men include biotin. This B vitamin is a building block for hair follicles and is a key supplement to take for hair thinning.

What about vitamins with collagen or various kinds of “cartilage”?

These are not vitamins to take for hair growth. There is little to no valid evidence that these products are helpful in hair growth and they may in fact have untoward effects. These products are fraught with issues in regards to safety and there is little medical data to suggest they really work.

Are there vitamins that may actually cause hair loss? Actually, there are. It turns out that people who take large amounts of Vitamin A can have hair loss from vitamin A.  This is one of the many reasons we do not generally suggest taking Vitamin A, including the fact that most of us are not deficient in vitamin A and taking it can cause more harm than good. How so? Read more here.

Our Quick Guide to Anxiety Supplements that Work

It turns out there are some great supplements for anxiety and stress. However, they are not always the same for everyone. Just because your neighbor says she found an amazing vitamin for stress, it does not mean it is the right thing for you. We all have different diets, lifestyles and health concerns. She may be iron deficient because she doesn’t eat red meat and has heavy periods. In this case, she can benefit from iron supplements more than you. You may be a carnivore and find more benefit from other vitamins for anxiety.

Marvelous Magnesium is high on our list of anxiety supplements that work. This important mineral plays many roles in the body, mostly in helping nerves and muscles to function optimally. So how does magnesium also work as a supplement for muscle pain?  Magnesium helps muscles, including those in your blood vessels to relax. Yes, we said relax. Just like you need to! We can’t underplay the helpfulness of this supplement for stress and anxiety. To find out exactly how much to take, take our personalized vitamin quiz.

UnBElievable Bs are a group of B vitamins that also play a key role in treating anxiety naturally. They are most important in helping nerve function properly and this often means relaxing nerves that are overly keyed up. Sounds like just what you need?

Vitamin D has by no means been proven as a vitamin to take for stress or anxiety. However, we would like to suggest that it may play a role. Wait, aren’t we doctors and all about the evidence? Yes, we are. But indulge us on this for a moment. Science has shown that Vitamin D deficiency (read more about how incredibly common this is here) is linked with low levels of serotonin. Serotonin is one of the main chemicals in your brain where low levels is known to cause depression and anxiety. Does not take our M.D degrees to see the connection. Thus, we think it’s safe to suggest that taking a safe amount of vitamin D is a good idea for those looking for a supplement for anxiety.  And it’s a good idea for most of us to take some vitamin D for many reasons. Figuring out what that amount is requires a personalized vitamin and you can take our vitamin quiz here.

The fast and easy way to find the best personalized vitamins to take

How to find that combination of personalized vitamins is what seems to confuse people.  These days there are a lot of options! If you go online or listen to the news you may have heard about different personalized vitamin packs, pill pack vitamins, and more. It seems as though people are being bombarded with options to take another vitamin quiz,  find the best personalized vitamins, sign up for vitamin subscriptions. The options abound. But so does the confusion…

We put an end to personalized vitamin packs! How did we do that?

First, we recognized that most people do not want to take packs of vitamins. They may enjoy the idea of building your own vitamin packs. They like taking the vitamin quiz and sharing their information. However, in the end, what they get is a product that they DO NOT WANT.

You may build your own vitamin pack with the hopes of finding the best vitamin subscription, but ultimately here is what happens: You get a big box in the mail that you DO NOT WANT. You get packets galore, that take up tons of space on your counter, in your purse, your bathroom, or wherever.

And even worse…

You get tons of pill pack vitamins! This means tons of vitamins that you do not want or need to take.

As physicians, we have yet to meet someone who enjoys taking a handful of pills every day. Do you know what people enjoy less?

Taking handfuls of pills several times per day. In fact, they enjoy this even less:

Taking BIG pills. Many of these products that claim to be the best personalized vitamins have you build your own vitamin pack and include tons of huge, hard to swallow pills. These do not go down well and often cause upset stomach, bad aftertaste, and more.

Other than the number of pills in personalized vitamin packs, there are a few other things that make these programs less than ideal.  As a customer, you are choosing what you want. How could this be a bad thing?

Well, we all like to drive the ship. However, when you build your own vitamin pack you are selecting an array of ingredients and putting them together, not really having the scientific background or experiences, that say…two really knowledgeable and experienced Medical Doctors do.  So, give us a little credit.

Simply put, you can’t just throw a bunch of pills together and say you’ve got the right combination of vitamins. Experience and extensive research tells us that certain vitamins should be taken together (such as iron and vitamin C) while certain vitamins don’t play so well together (certain amounts of calcium and other minerals).  We have spent years (and lots of medical school tuition) studying all of this. So take our vitamin quiz and let us listen to your needs in order to create what we think is the best subscription vitamin combination for you.

While we’re on the subject of medical research and actual SCIENCE, let’s talk about ingredients.  Yes, you heard us. We are pretty picky when it comes to what we include in our vitamins. Many of the pill pack vitamins include vitamin products that are on the sketchy side.

That’s right, they like to throw in fun-sounding ingredients like “elderberry” and “evening primrose”. While mixing cool-sounding herbal substances to create a vitamin pack sounds like great fun akin to mixology, it may not be the way to go. How could this possibly go wrong?

It could go very wrong. Taking unnecessary and potentially harmful herbal products can actually lead to toxic effects. This article from the New England Journal of Medicine looks at the 23,000 ER visits per year related to supplement use. That is no joke. So, how do we know what is actually safe, and helpful to take?

So…There’s this thing called science. And we, as Medical Doctors, spent a great time in training and in our careers learning how to look at the medical literature and use actual data to determine the things we do and don’t recommend.  So we only suggest using vitamins and supplements to treat and prevent health problems, when we know that there is science to back it up.  We also believe in personalizing vitamins to meet individual needs based on actual information (which you provide to us). Simple enough!

But, wait. There is more!

When it comes to the Vous Vitamin ® system of daily personalized vitamins, there’s another really important benefit:

Cost! It turns out that personalized vitamin packs can be very pricey. They can run up to $100 per month for a pack while the Vous Vitamin vitamin subscription is a one tablet solution that can cost as little as $26 per month. Why?

Because we are giving you only what you really need not trying to upsell you extra pills to maximize revenue.

On the subject of wastefulness, let’s not forget about packaging. You ask…What’s the big deal, about packaging?

Turns out, packaging for daily personalized vitamin packs and some vitamin subscriptions is a big (as in large volume) deal.  They give you reams of packaging with bulky boxes, multiple plastic (non-biodegradable) bags per day.  The Vous Vitamin personalized daily vitamin gives you one lovely recyclable compact bottle that lasts the whole month. Simple!

So if you are looking for vitamins that are not too big and easy to swallow, look no further!

Vous Vitamin has perfected the single pill solution to get you the right vitamins for your individual needs. You can get the best personalized vitamins and avoid cumbersome pill pack vitamins. Get only what you need in our reinvented multivitamins.

Do I need to have blood tests to find out what vitamins to take?

We often hear of people going to various naturopathic or functional medicine physicians who order extensive (and expensive!) panels of endless levels of various vitamins, hormones, and other items. Typically the results of these multitudes of levels then turn to the prescribing of many expensive (and often unproven supplements). But, buyer beware! If something seems over the top it probably is. The medical data suggests that too much testing is overkill and a few key levels have their role and can be useful to health care. Blood testing for many vitamins is often not accurate or useful. For example, magnesium levels are often inaccurate and not reflective of true need.

The most common vitamin levels that are checked include vitamin D, vitamin B12, and iron.  And yes, it’s true that many people are deficient in these nutrients! However, checking levels is often not necessary or that helpful in telling us this. It turns out that it’s usually fairly easy to predict who is deficient in which vitamin based on various factors including age, diet, lifestyle, and health issues.

We often joke that we can predict your vitamin D from a mile away if we know that you live in our very vitamin D deprived Chicago climate.  The key is using these factors to then determine how much vitamin D you need to be taking on a daily basis to help correct this deficiency and maintain an optimal level.  It turns out that we do not all have the same needs.  In addition to where you live, things like race (skin pigment affects vitamin D absorption) diet and other factors help determine these needs. Taking a proper dose of D is essential since taking too much can also cause significant harm.

We often see vitamin B12 deficiency in people who keep a vegetarian or vegan diet.  In addition, certain people as they get older can benefit from B12. The challenge with B12 blood levels is they are not always accurate and can often be normal despite deficiency.  Sometimes the low end of normal is actually low. In general taking a B12 oral supplement in those who we suspect deficiency or need based on their diet, lifestyle, and health concerns is the way to go. However, there are rare cases of people with extreme needs, typically those who have had portions of their GI tract removed or bypassed  (such as after gastric bypass surgery), had major intestinal illnesses such as Crohn’s disease, or with intestinal absorption issues such as celiac disease. These are people who at times need to take B12 either sublingually or via injection if oral supplements do not suffice.

And last but not least, iron levels. Iron levels can be of use but are done rarely. More commonly we run blood counts, which can show if someone is anemic. Many physicians and health practitioners falsely assume that a normal hemoglobin on a CBC means that you do not need to take iron. It turns out that many of the patients we see are not anemic but they do have low total body iron stores as seen when measuring a ferritin level. Most of the women we see do have low ferritin levels likely because their iron supplies have been depleted from years of having periods, pregnancies, and nursing babies. They tend not to eat red meat (best dietary source of iron) in the quantities needed to build back up iron stores. Men too often have low ferritin levels, perhaps due to less red meat consumption or iron absorption.  Many people do not recognize the symptoms they are having from low iron (including low energy, thinning hair or hair loss, fatigue, brittle nails). Repleting iron depends less on the actual iron levels and more on finding a tolerable form of iron to take. Many people get side effects from certain oral iron preparations, thus finding the right form of iron as well as pairing it with the other nutrients to help absorption is key.

Another misconception about blood testing is in regard to calcium. Patients often want to know how much calcium they should be taking based on blood testing that includes a serum calcium. Calcium levels in the blood do not reflect if you are getting adequate calcium intake. Your body should maintain a normal serum calcium no matter your diet. It will, however, leech calcium from your bones if you are not eating enough calcium. This is why getting enough calcium in your diet is essential (and a supplement when necessary) but blood testing is of no value in determining this. Find out more about calcium intake here.

In short, when people ask us “Do I need to get blood tests to find out what vitamins I need to take?”, the answer is typically, “No.” Blood testing rarely changes what we recommend for you based on your diet, lifestyle and specific symptoms. When it comes to deciding what vitamins you need and in what quantities there is no substitute for the details of who you are, what you eat, and your health conditions. 

Vitamins for Fatigue? Here’s what to take to and what NOT to take for energy

We find that during the winter months many people complain of fatigue or lack of energy. This is not surprising as there are fewer hours of daylight and the relatively colder weather seems to put many of us into “hibernation mode”.  Patients often ask us “what vitamins can I take for fatigue?”

One reason that vitamins for energy can be so useful is that they can also help combat the other natural tendency when feeling fatigued– to eat high energy (aka high calorie) foods.  Getting the proper nutrients can reduce these cravings, for often unhealthy foods. It is very much our natural inclination this time of year to hunker down and eat large quantities of “comfort” (aka unhealthy) food. This may be our body’s cry for help.

So what else can we do to boost energy? Certainly getting enough sleep is important. We by no means recommend sleep deprivation, but rather a healthy night’s sleep with regular sleep and wake times (often hard when it’s dark in the morning, but consider a lightbox to help with this).  If you have trouble falling asleep, see this for help.

Another way to boost energy is to remind your body that it should be awake at certain times. Exercise is a great way to do this. Believe it or not, being active actually boosts energy. It raises endorphins, adrenaline, and other hormones that signal to your brain and body that now is a time for alertness. Regular exercise, albeit challenging in certain climates is so essential to maintaining your health and feeling energetic. Even a brisk walk can go a long way to help you feel more energetic by day and more restful at night. Don’t forget to hydrate well and to get adequate electrolytes around the time of your workout.

Beyond these lifestyle tips, vitamins can be an important part of your regimen to feel more energetic. These days we seem to constantly see and hear about “energy boosters” that can be found in everything from drinks to gums to vitamins and supplements. As with most supplements and nutritional products, beware of something that promises too much. A product that says it will give you boundless energy, a metabolism like a teenager, and of course a “fat burn” is a huge red flag. In fact, a promise to any one of these things should be a warning. Many of the products promising these things are full of stimulant substances– these can include massive amounts of caffeine, stimulants (aka “speed”), and/or other products such as steroids, ground-up animal glands, and more, that cause your heart rate to increase and have effects similar to “speed”.  The supplement industry is largely unregulated, so illicit substances have a way of finding their way into healthy-appearing products. Needless to say, these are not desired effects. And while they can simulate some type of “energy boost” in the short run. They are in fact, a recipe for disaster. A recent article in the New England Journal of Medicine suggested that over 25,000 emergency room visits happen each year due to supplement toxicity. A large part of this is due to these types of “energy” products. If it seems too good to be true, it probably is.

In addition to stimulants found in “energy” supplements, one must also be cautious about various “glandular formulas”. These are products that may claim to boost energy, metabolism, and combat “adrenal fatigue” that often contain ground-up animal glands (thyroid, adrenal etc). There is no medical necessity for these products and great harm can come from their ingestion (despite that they can initially help improve energy). There are circumstances where thyroid hormone or steroids are needed to help replace a deficiency, but these are situations where treatment should be guided by a physician with FDA-regulated, prescription medication.

So what vitamins can you take for fatigue and lack of energy? The following, to name a few…

We naturally are deprived of vitamin D this time of year. This valuable vitamin (actually a hormone) is essential to so many aspects of keeping us healthy (immunity, muscle strength, mood, and much more). Most people do need to take supplemental vitamin D to maintain a normal level and we recommend doing this year-round as vitamin D is fat-soluble and slow to build up. What we do not recommend is taking super-high doses of D (unless under the care of a physician with careful monitoring) as one can take too much vitamin D and then experience signs and symptoms of toxicity. The best way to obtain vitamin D is with a high-quality supplement as a part of a personalized multivitamin, based on your diet, lifestyle, and health concerns.

Likewise, other vitamins that can be useful for boosting energy include certain B vitamins, namely B12 and B1. These are nutrients involved in nerve function. Many people are deficient due to lack of intake (especially vegetarians, but not exclusively), and supplementing them at safe levels is often useful.  Iron is also an important nutrient which many of us lack. Many of us are low in Iron because we do not eat red meat with regularity. In addition, women lose iron continually throughout their lives via having periods, pregnancy, and nursing. Their total body iron stores often remain low for decades following these events. Men too can be iron deficient and this too is a common cause of lack of energy.  It is of course important to see your doctor for any signs of major deficiency or GI bleeding. Many of us just walk around not overtly anemic, but rather with low body iron stores that take its toll.

What other vitamins can be useful for fatigue or low energy? It turns out that iodine may be helpful. Iodine supports thyroid health and your thyroid helps regulate your metabolism and in turn, energy levels. Getting adequate (but not excessive) iodine is important to keep your thyroid functioning optimally and therefore boosting energy and supporting your metabolism.

Magnesium may also be useful in helping with fatigue or low energy but its role is less defined. We do know it is key in regulating muscle function and may also support the heart and blood vessels. It has many other uses that may then help carry over to effects on energy (such as improving sleep patterns, supporting heart health, and more).

Looking for ways to lose weight, get healthy and feel better: The guaranteed Way to Get Healthier this Year

  • Start watching portions. This could mean cutting restaurant meals in half or setting aside your servings of food at home (this includes “seconds” and “tastes”). Set aside premade or pre-portioned to be used during the day– helps limit endless snacking (even with healthy foods, the calories add up).
  • Consider a healthy eating plan that is maintainable in the long term such as Weight Watchers (not a sponsor, we just love their program). Find something that you can do that allows for travel, eating out, and special occasion splurges.
  • If you drink 4 drinks or more per week, consider cutting back. This is hard for some to imagine, but note that alcohol is both a huge source of calories and a gateway to other indiscretionary eating. It is also not healthy for women to drink more than a few drinks per week because of breast cancer risk, while for men one drink daily is the “recommended” amount. Less will not hurt you or your waistline and it will help your pocketbook too, BTW.
  • Up your exercise. For those of you without this habit already, you can so easily improve! Either start a walking regimen (10 min daily or 30 min a few days per week is a great start) or a simple exercise plan. This could be as easy as the New York Times 7 minute workout. Who doesn’t have 7 minutes? Some online yoga is also a great free option. Or bite the bullet and join a gym, with the understanding that you are actually going to go to the gym two-three times weekly (know in advance when those time will be). If you are already a regular exerciser and we are preaching to the choir, think of something small you can do to up your game (extra cardio? some added weight training or perhaps just filling in days off with some stretching).
  • Get the right vitamins. And we do not mean take handfuls of pills here! We can all benefit from better nutrition and one of the easiest ways to do this is via a personalized multivitamin. Taking too many or the wrong vitamins can actually do more harm than good. Taking the right combination of nutrients for your individual needs based on your diet, lifestyle and health history can make all the difference. This small step and easy habit to adopt can help you feel better, more energetic, and more able to control your eating, all ultimately aiding in the weight loss process. And you don’t even have to leave your couch to do this!
  • Make sure you commit to getting healthy sleep. Often overlooked, good sleep habits are essential to all aspects of your health. In fact, even losing weight is facilitated by getting good quality sleep. So don’t let this important part of your regimen get cut short in the name of other tasks in your life.
  • Become more mindful. Mindfulness and meditation are great ways to help reduce anxiety, stress, and improve your approach to life. Learning these techniques and employing them can be a great way to aid in focusing on other aspects of your health. Check out phone apps like Headspace or Calm or go to mindful.org for more info.
  • Don’t forget to make sure you are up to date with your doctors and other aspects of your health. We are doctors so of course, we recommend this 🙂 But seriously, make sure you caught up with all appropriate screening tests, such as mammography.

Are supplements safe? These doctors say, “That depends…”

A recent article in JAMA (Journal of the American Medical Association) showed shocking things were found when many off the shelf vitamins and supplements were analyzed. Almost 800 products were found to contain prescription medications or illicit ingredients. Scary stuff!

As this JAMA study showed, the bottles do not always contain what is listed on the label. In fact, much of the time certain types of products contain prescription drugs or illicit substances. It is not uncommon for supplements labeled to promote “weight loss” or “energy” to contain dangerous stimulants.  Likewise many supplements that boast improving sexual function contain illicit ingredients that are found in prescription medications for erectile dysfunction. Similarly, we see supplements touted for helping cholesterol, contain substances that are identical to the statin drugs we prescribe for cholesterol and cardiac issues.

Magnesium, the miraculous mineral: What vitamin can I take for muscle aches, migraine, IBS, and more… One of these miraculous vitamins is magnesium. In this case, magnesium–actually a mineral– is such a crucial component to the function of almost every cell in the body. Its role in making each cell work optimally may be why it’s so darn useful as a supplement.  We will save you all the boring science we learned in medical school involving ion channels, action potentials and more. Suffice it to say, magnesium is what makes nerve cells fire, muscle cells contract, and much much more. It’s therefore not surprising that low levels of magnesium can take its toll on the body and gum up the works, so to speak.  But how to know if we need more magnesium? This can be a challenge. It turns out that serum magnesium levels are not always accurate in helping us decide if we need more. A high serum magnesium is probably a good indication that we don’t need to take more, but this is rare. More often we see normal or low-normal readings and this is often not useful in telling us that we can use more magnesium to feel our best and help address certain issues. Can taking magnesium help feel better? Often it can. Its key role in cellular function leads to improved function of muscle cells throughout the body. This often translates into an improvement in muscle function, body aches, fatigue, and more. Several studies show improved migraines and relief from IBS by taking magnesium supplements.  In addition, there is data to suggest increasing magnesium intake can improve blood pressure. This may have to do with optimizing the heart’s pumping and/or improving the function of cells in one’s artery walls. Taking magnesium to treat and prevent migraines is becoming common practice. It likely helps these debilitating headaches by preventing the spasm of certain blood vessels in the brain or by helping brain cells stay better hydrated. Whatever, the mechanism, taking magnesium can help migraines and most migraine sufferers should try taking magnesium as a part of a comprehensive personalized vitamin approach. Magnesium may help with Irritable Bowel Syndrome by helping the gut work better. Its role in cell function may aid the GI tract in muscular contractions and proper digestion of foods. Taking too much magnesium can cause diarrhea but if combined in the right formulation with other appropriate nutrients this is rare. The one group of people who should avoid magnesium are those with moderate or severe kidney disease. Most others can benefit from magnesium as a part of a vitamin regimen.  People who are especially likely to be deficient in magnesium are those who take acid-blocking medicines for GERD (reflux, or heartburn), those with celiac disease or other chronic illnesses that impair absorption of nutrients.

How to Get rid of Migraines with Vitamins: Vitamins for Migraines really are a Thing

Vitamins to help migraines is really a thing. It turns out that there is actually good scientific data suggesting that certain vitamins, taken in proper and safe doses, can reduce the frequency and severity of migraines. So yes, vitamins can help get rid of migraines if you know what to take and how much.

First off, you reduce migraines by making several smart lifestyle choices. This means, getting adequate sleep, hydrating and avoiding certain foods that may be triggers (typical offenders can include red wine, chocolate, smoked or cured meats, soy sauce, or aged cheeses). Know your body and what triggers you may have.

In addition to certain foods that trigger migraines, certain circumstances are also known to bring them on. Typically these include excess heat and sunlight exposure, dehydration and sometimes certain motion related activities (think roller coasters, reading in the car, etc). When it comes to hydration, staying on top of water consumption is key, but also don’t ignore key electrolytes which help our bodies hold onto fluids and are especially useful at keeping your brain cells hydrated. Read more here about the importance of electrolytes in hydration and migraine prevention here.

When it comes to vitamins to help migraines, the most proven and studied examples are vitamin D and magnesium. Vitamin D deficiency is associated with an increase in migraine frequency. Correcting this deficiency is essential to better health and well being. Given that vitamin D deficiency in varying degrees is rampant today, most of us benefit from taking some. How much to take varies based on individual needs. A personalized multivitamin is a great way to get exactly what you need.

Magnesium is an electrolyte and a mineral that is essential for cellular function. It helps cells maintain their hydration and hold the water inside that they desperately need. This is especially important to migraine treatment when it comes to brain cells. If brain cells dehydrate, this can trigger migraines. Thus supplemental magnesium can help prevent migraine. It also may play a role in preventing the arteries in the brain from spasming, which is essentially the cause for migraines. Magnesium, in doses of approximately 300mg daily can be useful for migraine treatment and prevention. It can be taken as a part of a personalized multivitamin (take our personalized vitamin quiz).

Other vitamins and suggested to help with migraine prevention include Riboflavin and Butterbur. Riboflavin, also known as vitamin B2 works by unknown mechanisms.The good news is that riboflavin is readily available in many food sources including most breads, cereals and grains, eggs, milk and some green vegetables. Deficiency is rare, though some choose to take supplemental B2.

While Butterbur has been studied and shown to help reduce migraine frequency and severity we advise extreme caution when considering taking it. As with all herbal products, manufacturing and production is often flawed and products can contain contaminants and unknown substances, sometimes very little of the actual desired herbal. With butterbur it is especially important to buy a product free of pyrrolizidine alkaloids (PAs) as this common ingredient has been known to cause liver damage. Look for a PA free product as well as (with any supplements) look for something that is USP or GMP certified. Read more about supplement safety here.

5 Common Health Myths: Doctors tell the truth about adrenal fatigue, gluten free eating and more 1) Because I am stressed out and exhausted all the time, my adrenals have overproduced stress hormones and run out of them, so I must have “Adrenal Fatigue”. This condition is being used to explain every symptom under the sun. However in the medical world it is universally called into question. The situation and the symptoms are real, no doubt, but the concept of your adrenals wearing out from overuse is not physiologically correct. The truth is more likely that if you are very stressed out, your adrenals have produced lots of cortisol and it is this excess of cortisol that is making you feel terrible (causing you to gain weight, lose hair, break out and feel exhausted). The solution is therefore not to give you more of these stress hormones (as is touted by many Adrenal Fatigue champions) but rather to undo the stress, practice better sleep habits, regular exercise, mindfulness and meditation. Also treating certain nutritional deficiencies can be key to getting your body tuned up and back in working gear.

2) Eating Gluten Free is better for everyone.

While it may be all the rage, this fad is not always fabulous. In fact it can be quite the opposite. Many products touted as gluten free are full of chemicals and additives including very high calorie alternatives to gluten.  There are some people who truly should be gluten free, namely those with Celiac Sprue, a condition where gluten causes the intestines to get inflamed.  There are people with genuine wheat allergies as well (who get hives, wheezing and other typical allergy symptoms from wheat) but this is rare.  Some people just feel better when not eating gluten and that is OK. Some with arthritis, asthma and some skin conditions swear by it. Eating an unprocessed variety of naturally gluten free foods can be a healthy diet and a means for some people not to overindulge in carbs.  Many people feel better from a GI standpoint when they eat a gluten free diet. However those with Irritable Bowel Syndrome who don’t have celiac may actually do better avoiding a group of foods, called FODMAPS ( a funny acronym for Fermentable Oligosaccharides, Disaccharides, Monosaccharides And Polyols which is a mouthful but is essentially a bunch of different sugars found in certain foods). These sugars from some very unexpected food sources can cause unwanted gas, bloating and abdominal discomfort. Avoiding the FODMAPS (such as high lactose dairy, certain grains and certain fruits and vegetables and not the gluten can be very helpful for some people with Irritable Bowel Syndrome.

3) Getting yearly mammograms is not a good idea.

While certain news sources have recently called the usefulness of mammography into question, it is still far and away the most useful screening test we have for the general population of women to detect early breast cancer. It is the Gold Standard in diagnosing breast cancer and there is good data to show that early detection does improve mortality in this disease. However, it is important to understand that screening mammograms should be used in the proper context– generally women 40 and over, approximately once per year.  We are all high risk for breast cancer (1 in 8 women will get this disease during their lifetime and only 15% of those will be women who have a family history of breast cancer!). Certain higher risk groups of women (such as those with known genetic mutations or very strong family histories) should also consider alternating mammography with MRI and having regular very careful physical examination of their breasts.  Newer recommendations also include screening whole breast ultrasound for women with very dense breasts in addition to mammography. All women starting in their teens should practice monthly self breast examination and learn what is normal for their bodies. We should be quick to see professional help if we feel a lump has appeared or changed no matter how old we are.

4) I can still have a thyroid problem if my thyroid tests are normal.

It is very rare if not unheard of to have a low thyroid when your TSH (a hormone made by your brain that is exquisitely sensitive to circulation levels of thyroid hormone) is in the correct range. This number should typically be under 2.5. If it is lower than 2.5 it means your brain is sensing enough circulating thyroid hormone and you are not deficient in the hormone. It is common however, to have many symptoms of a low thyroid– fatigue, weight gain, constipation, thin hair— which are actually due to vitamin deficiencies. Typical people who have these complaints are low in certain key nutrients such as Iron, Vitamin D and certain B vitamins.

5) You should not take a multivitamin.

The question about whether to take multivitamin is not whether you should or shouldn’t, but rather what you should be taking and how much.  We are all different and have individual vitamin needs based on our diets, lifestyles and health histories. Finding the right balance of nutrients is the challenge. Most of us do need some additional nutrients since our food supply no longer has the vitamins and minerals it once did and many of us, even those of us who eat very healthful diets, are low in certain key nutrients such as iron, iodine, magnesium and other things. For this reason a Personalized Multivitamin(take our personalized vitamin quiz) can be a great solution.

Trouble Sleeping? Vitamins for Insomnia

So why do we need to sleep more? And what is enough sleep? While many think that 6 or 7 hours is enough sleep, it turns out that most people need 7-9 hours of sleep to feel their best and for their body to function optimally. Not getting enough sleep can cause the obvious fatigue, lack of concentration and low energy the next day. It is less commonly known that sleep deprivation plays a role in weight gain, blood pressure and blood sugar.

Ways to improve sleep include measures of sleep hygiene.  This means it’s important to set regular wake up times, bedtime routines and keep your bedroom calm, quiet and a dedicated place for sleep.  Stop using screens an hour before you wish to sleep. Many people also find it useful to wear amber colored glasses to help block blue light. They can be put on one-two hours prior to bedtime.

In addition to taking time to prioritize good quality sleep, there are vitamins that can help with sleep.  The most classically talked about supplement for sleep is melatonin. This is a hormone that your body makes naturally in preparation for sleep. Taking melatonin consistently 30 minutes before bed time can help reset your body’s clock and help you fall asleep and stay asleep.

Melatonin is often used to help with sleep but there are other vitamins and minerals which can help with sleep. Many can be found in a personalized vitamin regimen that is tailored to meet individual needs. For example, magnesium is a mineral that helps with muscle relaxation and also can be helpful with sleep.  Many people take magnesium before bed while others take it as a part of a multivitamin and it still may have help with relaxation and sleep.

Other vitamins that help with sleep can include iron. Believe it or not, many of us have low body iron stores. Low iron stores (or ferritin) are associated with a condition called Restless leg Syndrome which is a very common cause of disrupted sleep or trouble sleeping.  Thus replacing iron with a personalized multivitamin(take our personalized vitamin quiz) that contains safe and proper amounts of iron can be helpful in promoting sleep in those who suffer from restless legs.

In addition to restless leg syndrome affecting sleep, some people get sensations in their legs related to deficiencies in certain B vitamins.  People often feel numbness, tingling or pins and needles when deficient in B12. Supplementing B12 and other key nutrients can be quite helpful in minimizing these symptoms and therefore helping with sleep.

Vitamin D deficiency is rampant and more the rule then the exception today.  Being low in this important nutrient can be very detrimental to sleep. Muscle aches, cramping and other unpleasant symptoms can interfere with sleep.  Vitamin D deficiency is almost universal today but figuring out to how much to take largely depends on who you are, where you live, and your lifestyle and health concerns.

Which supplements should I be taking to be healthy?

My mother sent me this article from the New York Times saying “many multivitamins are not good and I am so confused!”.  This is a common problem we hear from our patients. They feel confused by all the conflicting information they hear from the media, from friends, neighbors, and relatives.

It turns out that there is lots of valid research supporting the use of certain vitamins for certain people in certain amounts.  There is not as much to suggest that a generic off the shelf multivitamin has great benefits for whole populations. However, specific examples include Vitamin D, which has great data supporting its benefits in improving mortality, reducing fractures, and helping certain problems such as migraine and muscle aches. Most of the population is Vitamin D deficient if they do not take a supplement. Iron is useful for many people who don’t get enough via diet (vegetarians, vegans) or those who suffer from deficiency because of heavy periods, GI absorption issues (such as celiac, inflammatory bowel, and more) and for those who suffer from thinning hair.  Many people need supplemental B vitamins, magnesium, and iodine due to a lack of these vitamins in the food supply. Thus specific vitamins are very important in certain people depending on what they eat, who they are, and what symptoms they experience.

Yet, the opposite is also true. There are many vitamins shown to cause harm. For example, taking supplemental Vitamin A has been associated with cancer and osteoporosis. Vitamin E in high doses has been shown to cause harm. Taking too much vitamin D also can cause kidney stones, mental status changes, and more.  Taking the wrong vitamin doses or improper doses of even helpful vitamins can be dangerous. No wonder Jennifer was confused!

Treating Menopause With Vitamins

Symptoms of fatigue, difficulty sleeping, and hot flashes can cause even the most steady of us to the brink of insanity. Regular exercise can significantly help to decrease hot flashes and improve a good night’s sleep. If you have low vitamin levels, such as vitamin D and iron levels, they can contribute to exhaustion. Supplementing vitamin deficiency is a good place to start. Melatonin at bedtime can also aid in catching some z’s.

Some women find relief from Black Cohosh. There is no evidence at this time showing the effectiveness of Black Cohosh, but there are ongoing studies investigating the Black Cohosh properties. It is important to look for a USP or GMP certified supplement given that Black Cohosh is grown in the wild and is easy to misidentify. This supplement should also be avoided if you have any liver issues.

Flaxseed oil contains lignans which may help with menopausal symptoms including hot flashes. Studies are mixed. If you do want to try flaxseeds, it is easy to buy them at the grocery store and grind them up yourself in your coffee grinder to activate oils. Try sprinkling them on salads or adding them to granola or yogurt.

The properties in soy mimic estrogen which may improve hot flashes. Asian women have fewer symptoms of menopause and a high soy-based diet may be the missing link. Women with a history of breast cancer should avoid soy. Also, those ladies on thyroid medication should not take soy products within 3 hours of thyroxine.

While there are many articles on the internet suggesting DHEA supplements to help with mood and low libido, we would caution against them. In our experience, since DHEA is a testosterone byproduct, it leads to unwanted hair in places you don’t want to see grow. We often see women in the office with thinning hair or increased hair loss because they are taking these supplements.

Another popular internet supplement is Dong Quai, a Chinese herb. This also may have long-term risks including increased cancer risks. There is no evidence that it actually improves hot flashes.

How can I stop getting sick all the time?

In summary, vitamins to help stop getting sick may include:

  1. Vitamin D- This vitamin is proving to be an important element of immune health. White blood cells in fact have vitamin D receptors, highlighting the role of this important vitamin.
  2. Vitamin C- Vitamin C has long been touted to support immune health. There is valid evidence to this effect. However, the key is taking the optimal amount and not taking excessive amounts.
  3. Zinc-Has been shown to shorten the duration of respiratory illnesses. It should be taken during times of illness but not necessarily year round.
  4. Vitamin A- Is an important vitamin for immune health. However, most people do not need to take vitamin A in the form of a supplement. Most Americans are not vitamin A deficient and taking large doses of supplements has been associated with osteoporosis and cancer.
  5. Magnesium-This key electrolyte plays a useful role in almost every body system including immunity and is a key element of hydration, which is an important element of fighting disease.
  6. B vitamins-Different B vitamins are useful for immune support. The best way to determine all of your vitamin needs is to take a personalized vitamin quiz and get a custom daily vitamin that meets your individual needs.

 

In addition to taking the right vitamins for preventing illness, lifestyle can play an important role in stopping colds and flu.  And you knew that no health blog would be complete without a recommendation to…drum roll…hydrate!!!  Of course, you carry around your S’well bottle filled with ionized filtered spring water imported from Switzerland. But that’s not all that we mean.  Yes, you need lots of water to keep your cells nice and juicy and functioning optimally. However, this also means getting plenty of electrolytes to help hold on to that water. Grandma’s chicken soup? That works, or you can get an ideal blend of electrolytes from our Power Up™.

Getting Personal About Hair Loss: Our Co-founder’s Story

I also started to use our Vous Power Up™ Situational Supplements to help me during chemotherapy. They provided me with extra electrolytes that I badly needed. I also found them helpful in preventing some of the side effects that many experiences with chemo including neuropathy (tingling hands and feet) and GI symptoms. I also updated my Vous Vitamin® personalized multivitamin(take our personalized vitamin quiz) for a formulation more focused on hair growth and energy. When I was going through chemo I was particularly susceptible to illness and kept Immune Blast™ close at hand.

Do Vitamins Help Depression?

Depression is a serious condition, experienced by many people (approximately 15 million American adults or approximately 6.7% of the US population at any time).  We see depression every day in our practices, manifesting in various forms in our patients.  Some people feel down and blue on occasion while others suffer from debilitating depression that impairs their ability to work.  We do not profess to cure depression with the exclusive use of vitamins. However, we believe that vitamins and supplements can play a role in treating and prevention depression. A recent study shows that using magnesium for depression shows promising results.

Most people who are depressed benefit from multiple modalities of treatment– these can include therapy with a trained counselor or therapist, medication, lifestyle changes (including improved sleep habits and exercise regimen) and some carefully chosen supplements (take our personalized vitamin quiz). We always advocate seeking professional help for symptoms of depression which may include feeling hopeless, lack of energy and not wanting to participate in normal activities. We also recommend going to get urgent help from your local emergency room or crisis hotline should you experience any thoughts of suicide or violence towards others.

In more subtle cases of depression and feeling down, making small change to your daily routine can often go far. We can not overemphasize the importance of proper sleep. This means an adequate amount of quality sleep. Some people spend a great deal of time in bed but they are not getting quality sleep for a variety of reasons– insomnia, sleep apnea, poor sleep habits, etc. See more on sleep and its role in energy in this blog.

Exercise can also be a useful tool in combatting depression. We understand that it is often hard to take the first steps towards being active when you are depressed. However, if you can get break a cycle of inactivity with starting the most simple at home exercise or some light walking, it can often lead to building new healthy routines that build on them selves and reverse the downward cycle of inactivity. Not moving can make you feel more down and tired, thus engaging your body in activity can help to start reversing the process in small increments. Let us not forget that exercise and activity create natural endorphins that make your body and brain happy.

When we think about vitamins that help depression we often looked to Vitamin D. This important vitamin, which is actually a hormone, is known to improve mood in those who are deficient. Who is deficient? Most of us to varying degrees, depending on where you live and who you are– read more on specifics of vitamin D and find out how much you should be taking.

Another useful supplement for depression is Omega 3s or fish oil. These products are shown to help with brain function and therefore logically can help with mood. Similarly many B vitamins are known to optimize brain and nerve function, and accordingly seem to help with fatigue, lack of energy and other symptoms that can look like depression.

But perhaps the most exciting news about vitamins for depression relates to this new study, suggesting a role for magnesium in treating depression.  We have long touted magnesium for it’s role in muscle aches, migraine prevention and IBS. We know it is an essential electrolyte for adequate hydration, blood pressure regulation and more. It is somehow not surprising that it also can play a role in mood regulation and improving symptoms of depression.

Leave Behind the Confusion and Simplify Your Daily Vitamin Routine