Hey ladies! If you want to improve your health and boost your energy, you may wonder if multivitamins can help and what the best multivitamin is for women. The honest answer is ultimately, “no” – multi-vitamins aren’t worth the money and potential risk FOR MOST who are overall a healthy, active adult.
The vast majority (not all) of vitamin supplements available on the market today are full of cheap, synthetic ingredients that cannot be properly utilized by your body and/or they contain mega-doses of vitamins and minerals in which our bodies don’t need (so you urinate them out! Why your pee is bright yellow after consuming most multi-vitamins). It can even be harmful getting excess of certain vitamins and minerals.
Those who are healthy adults who eat a well balanced diet receive what vitamins and minerals they need through their diet. Some factors can play a role in determining whether you may need a multi-vitamin supplement, however.
In this article, we will take a look at what multivitamins are – their potential benefits and risks – answers to some frequently asked questions about multivitamins – how to determine if a multi-vitamin is right for you and my top recommendation for the best multivitamin for women.
WHAT IS A MULTVITAMIN?
A multivitamin is a preparation intended to serve as a dietary supplement – with vitamins, dietary minerals, and other nutritional elements. They can come in various forms such as tablets, capsules, powder, chewables, gel caps and liquids and you can get them over the counter at stores like GNC, vitamin shoppe, CVS, Walmart and grocery stores or online via stores like amazon or company websites. The ingredients can include things like herbs, amino acids and fatty acids and nutrient amounts can vary upon product/brand.
WHO SHOULD TAKE A MULTIVITAMIN?
Vitamins and minerals are considered essential nutrients; Vitamins allow your body to grow and develop. They also play important roles in bodily functions such as metabolism, immunity and digestion. There are 13 essential vitamins, including vitamins A, C, D, E, and K and B vitamins such as riboflavin and folate. According to the U.S. National Library of Medicine, the best way to meet your vitamin needs is to eat a balanced diet containing a variety of nutrient dense foods. However, many things (like stress, sleep schedule, and even the storage and transportation of food) can make it tough for you to get nutrients you need solely from the foods you eat and some studies do show that incorporating nutritional supplements can improve certain health markers.
Some people may benefit greatly from receiving extra supplementation like a multivitamin, such as:
- The elderly: Vitamin B12 absorption decreases with age, and elderly people may also need higher amounts of calcium and vitamin D.
- Vegans and vegetarians: These people are at high risk of vitamin B12 deficiency, since this vitamin is only found in animal foods. They may also be lacking in calcium, zinc, iron, vitamin D and omega-3 fatty acids.
- Pregnant and breastfeeding women: Pregnant and breastfeeding women should talk to their doctor about this. Some nutrients are needed (like folic acid and iron) while others (like vitamin A) can cause birth defects in large amounts.
In addition, those who have had weight loss surgery, are on low-calorie diets, have a poor appetite or don’t get enough nutrients from food (i.e. poor diet or restrictive diet) alone may benefit from a multivitamin.
WHEN SHOULD I TAKE MY MULTIVITAMIN?
Generally, the time of day you take your multivitamin is not important. However, taking it with food may minimize stomach discomfort and increase absorption of some fat-soluble vitamins and minerals.
HOW DO I KNOW IF I NEED A MULTIVITAMIN?
The best way to determine if you need a vitamin supplement is to consult your physician and inquire about nutritional deficiency testing/blood work. In addition, if you have any conditions that may require more or less of something, your doctor can properly inform you to determine if a supplement like a multi-vitamin is right for you.
Things you can look out at home for when it comes to nutritional deficiencies that would trigger the need to see your doctor include:
- Tingling or numbness in the hands or feet can indicate a vitamin B deficiency.
- Muscle cramps can indicate deficiencies of magnesium, calcium, or potassium.
- Fatigue, weakness, and muscle aches can indicate a vitamin D deficiency.
- Memory loss can be a sign of a vitamin B12 deficiency.
- Mouth ulcers, fatigue, or gray hair can indicate a folate deficiency.
- Poor night vision, bumps on the back of the arms, or dandruff can all indicate a vitamin A deficiency.
WHAT TO LOOK FOR IN A QUALITY MULTIVITAMIN
If taking a multi-vitamin is something you feel will benefit you, then it is good to understand how to find the best quality product. These aren’t full proof but great tips to ensure a better quality multi-vitamin.
1. Ensuring whole food ingredients vs. synthetic
2. Avoid mega-doses. In general, look for no more than 100 percent of the Food and Drug Administration’s Daily Value of the essential vitamins and minerals. Keep in mind that certain nutrients (e.g., calcium, magnesium) are rarely offered at 100 percent because the pill would simply be too big for you to swallow.
3. Ignore special claims and add-ons like claims to assist with weight loss or increased energy. Even if botanical ingredients, food extracts, and other substances like lutein and lycopene did have a benefit, the amounts in a multivitamin are probably too small to have any effect.
4. Consider a multivitamin geared toward your age and gender as they will be more tailored to your specific needs.
5. There are non-nutritive fillers listed under the Supplement Facts box. They carry names like magnesium stearate and stearic acid. These ingredients keep tablets intact, fill capsule space or facilitate how the ingredients flow through the manufacturing machinery to make more pills faster. But none of them do anything for your health, which is the reason you’re taking a multivitamin in the first place. Look for cleaner “binder” ingredients (such as coconut oil, rice or tapioca syrup) found in natural brands that don’t sound like chemicals.
6. Includes the nutrients you need. Depending on your age, gender, diet, lifestyle and even genetic markers – you could need different nutrients compared to others. Consult your doctor to determine which vitamins and minerals are essential for you to better tailor the supplement to your needs.
7. Full disclosure of ingredients. Unlike pharmaceuticals, supplements aren’t submitted for FDA testing and approval before they go to market. The FDA does require that manufacturers disclose all supplement ingredients and detail the amounts per serving — unless it’s classified as a “proprietary blend.” In that case, the manufacturer doesn’t have to disclose anything besides a list of ingredients and the total amount in the bottle (you won’t see suggested daily values here).
8. Find a multivitamin approved by or in compliance with a third party verification such as:
NSF and USP (both nonprofit organizations) test supplements at the request of manufacturers, then lend stamps of approval to verified products’ packaging. Labdoor and ConsumerLab, both for-profit companies, seek out products to test without consent from manufacturers. (Manufacturers can request tests from ConsumerLab as well). Note: Just because a product does not have a seal of approval by any of these sites does not mean it’s poor quality – it could mean it has not been evaluated yet.
THE ESSENTIAL VITAMINS FOR WOMEN
When looking for your multi-vitamin, you want the most important vitamins. According to some sources, these are the most essential vitamins for women (note – some are more important than others depending on your age and if you are pregnant).
- Calcium– Calcium builds strong bones, but is also important for healthy muscles, nerves and heart.
Best Sources: Dairy products, calcium-fortified orange juice and cereals, beans, leafy greens, almonds and salmon.
Vit D – Vitamin D, like calcium, is essential for bone health and may reduce the risk of some cancers and heart disease. It also promotes calcium absorption in the stomach and intestines.
*Best sources: Sunshine, salmon, tuna, fortified milk, juices and cereals.
- Iron -Iron helps increase the amount of red blood cells in the body and keep blood healthy. Women with heavy menstrual bleeding or pregnant women need more iron in their diets or may need an iron supplement.
*Best sources: Animal sources such as meat, fish and eggs. Plant sources such as nuts, seeds and dark leafy green vegetables (note: use plant sources in conjunction with vit c for better absorption).
- Folate – Also known as folic acid – a B vitamin – Folic acid acts by helping the body produce and maintain new cells. In particular, red blood cell formation is dependent upon adequate levels of this vitamin.
*Best sources: Leafy green vegetables, fruits, dried beans, and peas.
- Magnesium – Magnesium is important throughout each stage of life because it supports hundreds of functions throughout the body, including tooth and bone formation, growth, physical and cognitive development and ensuring a healthy pregnancy. Magnesium is especially important for women older than 40 years, as it builds strong bones and prevents bone loss that may lead to osteoporosis.
*Best sources: Legumes, nuts, seeds, whole grains, fortified cereals and leafy green vegetables (like spinach)
- Fish oil– A rich source of the two essential omega-3 fatty acids: EPA (eicosapentaenoic acid) and DHA (docosahexaenoic acid). Studies indicate omega-3s may reduce the risk and symptoms of various disorders, including heart attack, stroke, some cancers and rheumatoid arthritis.
*Best sources: Cold-water, oily fish – such as salmon, mackerel and sardines
- Vit b12 – Vitamin B12 helps your body make red blood cells and keeps the brain and nervous system healthy.
*Best sources: Mostly animal proteins like meats, fish, dairy products and eggs. Can also find it in fortified cereals.
SAFETY AND SIDE EFFECTS
“Too much of a good thing is a bad thing!” – is a quote you may of heard and is not one to disregard as it is mostly TRUE.
To help determine the RDA (recommended daily allowance) of a vitamin or mineral – check out this nutritional guide.
To determine how much you are getting of a vitamin or mineral, you can check labels of your foods and log the nutritional values and compare to the RDA number in the guide above. Another way to do this is to use a nutritional tracker.
*Many vitamins can cause serious or life-threatening side effects if taken in large doses. Do not take more of this medicine than directed on the label or prescribed by your doctor. An overdose of vitamins A, D, E, or K can cause serious or life-threatening side effects. Certain minerals contained in a multivitamin may also cause serious overdose symptoms if you take too much. A vitamin overdose is known as hypervitaminosis; With few exceptions, like some vitamins from B-complex, hypervitaminoses are primarily caused by fat-soluble vitamins (D and A), as these are stored by the body for longer periods than the water-soluble vitamins. Generally, toxic levels of vitamins stem from high supplement intake and not from natural food. Toxicities of fat-soluble vitamins can also be caused by a large intake of highly fortified foods, but natural food rarely deliver dangerous levels of fat-soluble vitamins. Overdose symptoms may include stomach pain, vomiting, diarrhea, constipation, loss of appetite, hair loss, peeling skin, tingly feeling in or around your mouth, changes in menstrual periods, weight loss, severe headache, muscle or joint pain, severe back pain, blood in your urine, pale skin, and easy bruising or bleeding and more.
*Do not take a multi-vitamin with milk, other dairy products, calcium supplements, or antacids that contain calcium. Calcium may make it harder for your body to absorb certain ingredients of the multivitamin.
*Before you use multivitamins, tell your doctor about all your medical conditions and allergies. In some cases, you may not be able to use multivitamins, or you may need a dose adjustment or special precautions.
*Your dose needs may be different during pregnancy. Do not take multivitamins without telling your doctor if you are pregnant or plan to become pregnant. Some vitamins and minerals can harm an unborn baby if taken in large doses. You may need to use a prenatal vitamin specially formulated for pregnant women.
*Multivitamins can pass into breast milk and may harm a nursing baby. Do not use this medication without telling your doctor if you are breast-feeding a baby.
*Accidental overdose of iron-containing products is a leading cause of fatal poisoning in children under 6. Keep products containing iron out of reach of children. In case of accidental overdose, call a doctor or poison control center immediately.
*Store multi-vitamins at room temperature away from moisture and heat.
*Always take your multivitamin with a full glass of water.
*Multivitamins can interact with certain medications, or affect how medications work in your body. Ask a doctor or pharmacist if it is safe for you to use multivitamins in conjunction with any medicines you take – some (not all) of these include:
- tretinoin or isotretinoin;
- an antacid;
- an antibiotic;
- a diuretic or “water pill”;
- heart or blood pressure medications;
- a sulfa drug; or
- NSAIDs (nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs)–ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin), naproxen (Aleve), celecoxib, diclofenac, indomethacin, meloxicam, and others.
THE BEST MULTIVITAMIN FOR WOMEN
*The following is my own personal opinion based on my own research and experience.
If you are a healthy adult woman and/or a healthy adult pregnant woman that follows a good nutrient dense diet and is not on any major medications – I have a multi-vitamin brand for you! Please remember, you may need more or less supplementation than this product offers so please consult your doctor first.
Product Name: Ritual – Essential for Women and Essential Prenatal
My Rank: 9.5 out of 10
Price: $30-$35 for a 1 month supply
PROS: No Colors or Synthetic fillers| Transparent Brand | Vegan Friendly | Gluten & Allergy free | Non-GMO | No-Nausea Capsule Design | Only has what you need in it – nothing more
CONS: No Third party Independent testing done yet for further verification and analysis | Pricey according to some consumers who feel having more vitamins and minerals in their multi-vitamin is needed and so are being charged more for less technically.
Best Place to Buy: Currently the only place to buy this product is on the Ritual.com website. They offer free shipping and you can cancel anytime.
Guarantee: Ritual offers a cancel anytime policy and a satisfaction guarantee – don’t love it? It’s on them!
Product Ingredients: “Most multis have 20+ ingredients you already get enough of from food. Ours contains only nutrients you need, in bio available forms your body can actually use.” – Ritual
Essential for women Ingredients
Essential Prenatal Ingredients
Read further to find out How Ritual Defines their High-Quality Ingredients.
Some of the most common questions/concerns via consumers answered:
- The calcium dilemma – an explanation why calcium is not in the ritual multi-vitamin!
- Is it gentle on the stomach? Yes—“delayed release formulation dissolves later, in the less sensitive, more absorptive areas of your gut.”
- How long until you see results? “The benefits you feel—happier mood, maintained energy—are just bonuses when it comes to improving your long-term health. While many people feel a difference within 1-2 weeks, some don’t notice any difference and that’s okay. It’s what’s happening inside that counts. The water-soluble nutrients (Fe, Mg, folate, B12, boron) start working right away to support your heart, nerves, and more. Fat-soluble nutrients take longer, except for D3, which helps your brain the next day if you have low levels. All in all, it takes 3-4 months for your body to reach a new equilibrium. By the time Essential For Women reaches neurons—the cells in your brain that signal mood—it’s already helping your heart cells, bone cells, and more.*“
Ritual prides themselves on complete transparency and effectiveness of their products. Challenging some of the top scientists, they came up with a product that is simple, effective and backed by real science.
They care about what companies they work with and where they source their ingredients. And they understand the plight of trying to find products on the market today that are safe and effective.
As mothers, researchers, scientists and more – the team over at Ritual has really put a strong foot forward in giving you a great product with nutrients in their best forms and no unnecessary ingredients
“When I was pregnant, I turned my house upside down to get rid of products with ingredients I couldn’t get behind. I replaced everything from my cleaning supplies to my deodorant. But, in my search for the perfect prenatal vitamin, I found many of those same questionable ingredients. I couldn’t find a brand that I trusted, so I decided to build my own.
I founded Ritual with the belief that better health begins with better ingredients. With us, you’ll know where everything is coming from and why it’s there. Some call it obsess-iveness, we call it trace-ability.
Welcome to your new daily ritual.”
CEO & Founder
THE TAKE AWAY
As someone who has taken a multi-vitamin daily for the last several years, I personally recommend them. However, I have realized through both research and experience of my own and through others – most of us don’t need a multi-vitamin….or at least one that has 20+ vitamins and minerals and a blend of herbs, spices and oils to boot. Heck, I used to think it was gold to have all that stuff in it but now I realize that it’s mostly unnecessary and the possibilities of digestion issues when you mix certain things together or even overdose makes it pointless and possibly harmful. It’s important to note that the multivitamin market has little regulation or oversight from the FDA. For all intents and purposes, it’s a system that goes on trust. All we can do is research and try our best to make an informed decision.
Ultimately, you should consult your doctor first to determine if a multi-vitamin (and which one!) is the best for you. But if you are pretty darn healthy – it’s pretty safe to say these vitamins are all you need and are a great choice :). It’s fairly new on the market. So far…I am impressed!
If you have any questions, comments, feedback or want to share your experience with multi-vitamins or the Ritual brand – please comment below! I look forward to hearing from you and I hope you enjoyed this article.