Open thread: Vitamins

I just found out that I’m Vitamin D deficient and now I’m reading up about it. Tell me what you know about vitamins and do you take a multi-vitamin? What is the best brand with the fewest additives? Which vitamins do you recommend that I should be taking? What about my son?

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39 thoughts on “Open thread: Vitamins

  1. I am required to take vitamins daily. I do 2 multivitamins, 2 calcium citrates (1,000mg), and 18mg of iron (with vitamin D). That may increase or decrease based on next week's blood work.

    I never knew that you couldn't take calcium with iron because they fight for absorption. That requires a bit more planning and cuts into my cheese addiction.

    My husband and in-laws do the One A Day brands.

    My mom used to swear by Centrum.

    Good luck in whatever you decide!

  2. I buy Solgar for kids and we take Dr O's probiotic every day. My son also takes a vit d once a day. I only take uni-key vitamins. My husband had a tissue mineral analysis done and only takes select vitamins.

  3. I am interested in this topic as well. I have read so many differing reports as to their effectiveness, and I think I am going to stop taking vitamins altogether. But-I am, to the best of my knowledge not vitamin deficient. I come to that conclusion based on how I feel. And I feel good.

    That being said, I am still taking a multivitamin. I am still taking the same brand that I have since I got pregnant with My second son a few years ago. New Chapter Organics is an exceptional brand of vitamins because many of the vitamins are extracted from food (whatever that means). The are organic and come with probiotics (however effective they could be sitting in my cabinet for 6 months). The reason I take this brand is because it was the only brand of vitamin that I could take during pregnancy without having extreme nausea. I figured there was something good about them. I continued to take their women's one a day after I stopped breastfeeding and I can take them on an empty stomach. You can find New Chapter Organics at Whole Foods.

    As far as a vitamin D defiency, I have also read alot about this. Yes, cold climes make a huge difference. Wearing SPF moisturizers inhibit your ability to absorb vitamin D (I hated wearing them because they felt greasy and smelled gross). Many professionals are saying that Vitamin D defiency is over diagnosed right now, and that synthetic Vit D can be toxic in high amounts. Yet I have also heard that a Vit D defiency is one of the number one identifying factor to an increased risk of cancer especially breast cancer. I am NOT saying all this to scare you. I am trying to sort out my own feelings on vitamins and I have come to the conclusion that it's damned if you do and damned if you don't.

    The first order of business I would do is to google search foods that are high in vitamin D. There may be other better sources than the milk you can't tolerate. And much of the Vit D in milk has been added. Vit D is a fat soluable vitamin, so when you drink skim milk, the natural Vit D has been removed (with the fat) and the D that is added back in is not as readily absorbed, because there is no fat in the milk. That's the main reason I switched back to whole milk. I have also read that grass fed meat is higher in Vit D because the animals have been outdoors.

    Good Luck. I am eager to read other responses, because I clearly need more information!

  4. i would have echo those that advocate incorporating more Vitamin-D rich foods into your diet. your absorption rates are going to be higher and overall benefits, i would think, would increase. i don't know the specifics of Vitamin-D deficiencies and what doctors are diagnosing, but as a family we do our best to get vitamins from our foods. the right foods can fix almost anything!

  5. Generally-speaking, what I've been taught in my clinical nutrition courses is that if a person eats a balanced diet, they are usually getting adequate amounts of the various vitamins and minerals. Studies have even shown that mutli-vitamins may be detrimental, as toxic levels of certain vitamins and minerals can build up with excessive dosage.

    However, vitamin D is something a lot of people are deficient in. Though the "best" way to get it is through sunlight, many foods are fortified with it, and that you eat eggs and fish (as mentioned in your previous post) is a good thing. Personally, I'd make an effort to include more of those foods and consider a modest supplement for the time being.

    The daily requirements were changed back in November from 400 IU to 600 IU a day. While I know some MDs recommend doses of 1000 IU and upwards to replete stores, there is some danger of toxicity with D, as it's a fat soluble vitamin, which means that too much can build up in the body since it's not excreted in urine. If it's for a short period of time just to get your levels back up, you will probably be fine, but I'd talk with your doctor about ways you can get more vitamin D from foods and safe sun exposure after you've reached the desire level.

    Supposedly morning sun—even just ten or fifteen minutes—is the most beneficial because of the way the rays are slanted, but I'd ask more questions and do a little more research.

    Hope that helps!

  6. My son can't have food colors, so we use Tall Tree Children's Chewables for a multivitamin for him. Most of our vitamins I get from the Vitamin Shoppe or NOW naturals. If I don't buy at Vit. Shoppe, I order from LuckyVitamin. They have the best price on Coromega, which is a fish oil supplement but they come in little pudding packets (son won't swallow a pill, everything has to be chewable or easy to eat).

    I've read about Vit. D deficiency- don't just take a vitamin, try to make sure you get some sun every day, as much as you can!

    Other than my LD/BP son's supplements and a general daily vitamin, the kids don't take a lot of vitamins or supplements. We do it on an "as needed" basis – vit. C, zinc, elderberry when they start coughing/runny nose, etc.

    About fish – farmed fish is fed GMO corn and antibiotics and do not have the same diet as wild fish, and I personally don't think they have the same nutrition (my family, personally, avoids antibiotic fed meat). Also my hubs family used to own a commercial fishing boat and he'd kill me if I brought home farm raised stuff, LOL.

    They make orange juice that's fortified with Vit. D and calcium, too.

  7. We start with grass fed meat and milk. At minimum, those foods have Vit-D since they were eating grass. I believe my son is Vit-D deficient based on his emotional state in the winter compared to the rest of the year. We were recommended chewable vitamin D (1,000 iu) by Pharmax, but he didn't like the taste. We switched to Rainbow LIght Sunny Gummies (1,000 iu) and the kids all fight over them.

  8. Our trusted pediatrician says that kids' multivitamins are totally optional as long as he eats a healthy and balanced diet. Still, when we have a coupon we buy the all-natural Gummy Vites at Costco. They are technically a choke hazard so you can snip them in half with kitchen shears.

    Regarding Vitamin D for kids (which is now AAP-recommended at least for breastfed babies)… we use Carlson Baby D drops, available at Whole Foods. A bottle is $22 when on sale, but it holds ~365 drops. (Babies get 1 drop/day, toddlers 2-3 I think.)

    Here's what horrifies me: the only widely available Vitamin D supplement for babies (that I've seen) is Enfamil's D-Vi-Sol. It contains artificial flavors and colors! Why does a newborn need flavored red drops? So many well-meaning parents following AAP recommendations are probably starting their babies on the artificial stuff even earlier. Tragic.

  9. I order my multi-vitamins from an online company called Vitamin Bazaar and am very happy with them–both the product which is all natural and with the prompt service.

    I also buy a calcium supplement from Vitamin Bazaar to help prevent osteoporosis. I refused to take a hormone replacement as we do have a family history of cancer so my doctor STRONGLY urged me to take calcium. It has vitamin D added to it.

  10. I agree with MileHi Mama about wild fish versus farmed. I stopped eating farmed. There are still some wild fish that I can afford to incorporate into my weekly routine.

    After I wrote the other two comments, I went to my farmer's market. And from the honey man I bought something called bee propolis, or bee pollen. It is like a multivitamin from a food source. I am excited to started using it! So funny that it was on your topic today I had to tell you!

  11. I had heard on a morning show that during the cold months the earth's tilt away from the sun inhibit the amount of uv rays so even if you are in the sun 30 minutes, your body still can't produce enough vitamin D, so its best to take a vitamin supplement or get it in the foods you eat. Just a thought. I take centrum daily and kids take a a generic prescription multivitamin with added fluoride from medco since our water does not have fluoride added to it.

  12. My Vitamin D level was 20 when it was first discovered I had celiac disease. My nutritionist (who also has celiac) recommended 1000 I.U. of Vitamin D3. Five months later my levels were rechecked; she said if they weren't up to 40 I should take 2000 I.U. a day. I asked if that could be "too much" and she said absolutely not.

    I take the NatureMade liquid softgels. The have no artificial colors or flavors, no preservatives, no yeast, starch, or gluten.

    I also take a women's multi-vitamin with iron (I've had anemia at various points). For a multi-vitamin, look for something with no gluten, dyes, etc. Schiff Glucosamine HCl (1500mg) Plus MSM (1500mg) each day for my arthritis. I tried a different brand of Glucosamine to no effect, so now I stick with the Schiff.

    The best advice I can give you, however, is to see a nutritionist who knows about gluten-free eating. S/he would be your best source of information. Regarding D as well as other vitamins/nutrients, my nutritionist said that the US RDA is really outdated and doesn't take into account current information.

    For your son, read the labels closely. Beyond making sure it's gluten free, sometimes it's a compromise between what you think is the best one and what they might actually eat. (A lot of them have aspartame, for example – yuck.) My celiac kid is the pickiest on vitamins and it can be a trial to get her to take it. Of course she's my kid who needs it the most, so I do make her take it.

    Good luck with it all!


  13. As far as vitamins go, there is nothing as annoying to me as someone saying "Oh you get nosebleeds, take vitamin K, it helps." Yeah… I know it does for those with normal blood. I'm unfortunately one of those people whose nosebleeds are caused by a congenital disease, and need haemophilia medication that reminds my blood to clot, too.

    To get to the vitamins… I tend to take a multivitamin tablet when I remember to once a day, but if I'm feeling under the weather, I take double doses of vitamin C, B (a full range of them), magnesium and zinc.

    My bleeding issues have an interesting side-effect, my body is more proficient at absorbing iron from my diet, so I rarely have trouble with my haemoglobin levels, on the contrary, I'd probably be disqualified, if I'd do pro endurance sports (women's skiing, for example has haemoglobin limits). There is a congenital condition that is relatively common in Finland, where you get too much iron in your body, too, but I don't have that problem.

    All vitamins are important, and as a general rule, I seek to find everything I can naturally in what I eat.

    To mention some things… for example dairy together with some nutrients prevents the full absorption of nutrients into your diet, as a previous commenter mentioned.

    Coffee, tea and cocoa can prevent the absorption of iron from for example your bran cereal, so you have to give it some conscious thought, if you take your vitamin supplements regularly with breakfast. You might be doing yourself a disfavour.

    As said, if I know I'm deficient in something (physical symptoms and "cravings" count here to me more than lab work) I try to check what nutrients are in foodstuffs I crave to "double check" my suspicions. (fatigue, white streaks in my nails, slowing down of hair growth, tired eyes, drying skin, blisters in my mouth, all of these mean I need more of a particular nutrient, not that I'm getting ill, just to mention a few…)

    I eat about 50-75% raw food, which gives me large amounts of fruit, nuts and veg, meaning I get my vitamins almost entirely from my diet. Some, such as B12 (red meat) are harder to obtain through a fairly low-meat diet. Vitamin D is often added to milk these days.

    The most common nutritional supplements I go for are probiotic juices, yoghurts and cheese (a lot of good bacteria is used to create bread, dairy products and preserves, nothing wrong with them, or some fungi, like blue cheese mould and yeast).

    The places I check for nutritional information tend to be places like the Finnish National Institute for Health and Welfare's dietary information tool, which I also use to count the calorie values of recipes I write, and occasionally publish on my blog (when I remember to).

  14. First, thank you for writing this blog. I am not sure how I found it but it was right after I learned that my middle and high school-aged cousins posted an event on Facebook about how terrible the school lunch they were being served was. As a result, hundreds of kids brought their own lunch to school one day-leaving only about 20 kids (of about 500 students total) eating school lunch that day. It's a start to changing the way school lunch works in a little town in Wisconsin.

    Anyway, as a response to your question about vitamins. I've been steadily taking a multivitamin and 1,200mg of fish oil a day for a few months now. Additionally, I am cutting dairy out of my diet this month so I was just thinking I should start taking those Vitamin D supplements once again (plus, Wisconsin in winter=not a lot of natural Vit. D).

  15. I've been following Dr. Davis' Heartscan blog for some time. He's a cardiologist who writes a lot about his patients' vit. D needs and is a big believer in prescribing sufficient vit. D. to get to a certain level, rather than prescribing a one-size fits all daily dose.

    It was this blog and Mark's Daily Apple (also mentioned by 50firstcrafts above) that led me to go grain free, but that's another story, too long to describe here.

    I think you'll find it interesting reading too:

  16. We use Blue Ice cod liver oil – available through Green Pastures or Natural HEalth Advocates or Dr. Ron's. My kindergarten son loves the gummy fish. I prefer the fermented cod liver oil in cinnamon flavor – I just drop a bit into my morning smoothie. My husband prefers capsules. Though I don't like the "in your face" style so much, the Weston Price Foundation does do a VERY good job of researching the products it recommends to its members. A few years ago, they reported on the process used to make the Blue Ice product. Definitely the highest quality cod liver oil out there.

    I'm experimenting with an additional supplement of vitamin D, so we're using Carlson's dDrops.

  17. Wow… am I the only person who just buys whatever multivitamin is on sale that day? :\

  18. Apparently, after age 50, we can't really metabolize Vitamin D from the sun. When I was diagnosed with a severe Vitamin D deficiency, about 3 months ago, I was told to take 3000IUs a day. I take liquid and it seems to help. My nails are not cracking and splitting and my skin seems to be less dry. I bought my first bottle at a health food store (a real health food store, not Vitamin Shoppe et al) then bought it online for much less when I needed more.

  19. I take a dosage of a multi in gummy form. I also take 4 fish oil ills a day, biotin, calcium citrate, and Liquid b complex.

    I am vitamin D deficient and my doc prescribed an 8 week super high dose to get me on track and then blood work again in 8 weeks.

  20. After seeing a naturopath for some health issues, I found I was pretty "out of whack" and she had me start an arsenal of vitamins. I used to be pretty iffy about them, but after watching the movie on Netflix, "Food Matters" and doing more researching, I'm very comfortable taking whatever my naturopath recommends.

    With that being said, I DO think that we can get the majority of our vitamins from our environment and food…but while I personally am dealing with these certain health issues, I'm sticking with what I was recommended.

    I must also say that I was very happy to find that after comparing the arsenal of vitamins I was suggested online and in stores, it was my local co-op that had pretty much the best prices and the best selection of quality vitamins. The also have the Member Specials so that if you're a member there you always get a lower price, so normal vitamins like kids multivitamins and such are at a reduced price. PLUS, the co-op themselves has their OWN line of quality supplements that are less than name brands.

    Right now I think the biggest vitamins for us are (as mentioned) Vitamin D and Vitamin C and probiotics. BUT I must say that we just ordered some kefir grains online and make our own kefir to add to our smoothies/yogurt every day so that our probiotic is practically free (I think we paid $10 for the grains, including shipping, and just add some milk to the jar every day to "feed" the kefir grains).

  21. I take D3 and a multi-vitamin. I was seeing a naturopath for fatigue issues, and the combination of 6000 to 10000 units of D3 and the multi-vitamins had a huge impact on my energy levels. (I don't take the D3 in the summer, when I get lots of sun.) I don't worry too much about who makes the D, as long as it's D3, but I get my multi-vitamin from Douglas Labs.

    Most of the multi-vitamins sold in grocery stores are packed so tightly that none of the vitamins make it into your system –the vitamin doesn't dissolve in time, and it just exits your system as it entered: intact. I had been taking a Centrum multi-vitamin already, and yet switching to the Douglas Labs vitamins made a huge difference for me. Because these vitamins are not so tightly compressed, I take 2 a day.

    I remember reading that anyone living in northern latitudes is D-deficient in the winter. There have been some small studies that indicate high (but not toxic) levels of D can help protect you from the flu as well. I've never had any adverse affects, even when I was taking 10000 a day. Now that I've been taking D regularly for a couple of winters I usually take 6000 a day.

    However, I also think that all of us probably have very individual needs, so what works for me might not be exactly what you need. You'll have to try out a few combinations and see what makes you feel best.

  22. I was diagnosed with irritable bowel syndrome of "unknown origin" awhile back and was just miserable. I cut out all kinds of things in my diet trying to figure out what was causing these truly gut wrenching symptoms. I live in the Pacific Northwest and happened to read how vitamin D deficient folks in my neck of the woods are and decided to have my levels checked out. I shouldn't have been shocked to hear that as a vegetarian, non-milk drinking PNW gal my D levels were extremely low, but shocked I was. I was put on a prescription dose of D for a month or so and then a maintenance level dose.

    Imagine my surprise when all of my IBS symptoms disappeared. I can't imagine why a low D level would cause those kind of symptoms but it sure appears that's what the issue was with me.

  23. Since I cut out processed foods and vegetable oils, and replaced them with high quality saturated fats (coconut oil, butter from pastured cows, grass fed beef fat), I haven't needed any vitamins, though I used to have to take both a multi and a b complex just to maintain sanity.

    I recommend fermented cod liver oil all around, but mostly for the Omega 3 and the fact that the D in it is natural- not added back in (D breaks down in heat, so normal fish oil, pasteurized milk and so on have to have artificial D added back in- this isn't as easily utilized by the body). Obviously sunlight (without sunglasses or sunscreen) is best for D, but pastured lard (not the lard from the grocery store!) is the best dietary source of D. A single egg yolk every day is better than any multi vitamin as well.

    Now I only take a dose of the Blue Ice Fermented Cod Liver Oil with High Vitamin Butter Oil capsules (I'm not gutsy enough to take it straight yet, and I've tried with and without the butter oil and I think with is best, but only if you can afford the added cost), and half a dose of ginseng since I don't use caffeine at all (not counting chocolate). But then, I also do a lot of raw dairy, which helps a lot, and also eat raw sauerkraut (great for vitamin c). If you're eating low fat and reduced organ meats and fats you may still need a vitamin. The NatureMade gels are great, except that they contain soy oil. Plus you can bank points to redeem for coupons. 😉

  24. I'm a little late to jump on this comment-thread band wagon, and to be honest I haven't read the other comments so I hope I'm not 100% repetitive. But I wanted to say that most Americans are Vitamin D deficient. I'm a nutrition student, and as much low fat dairy that I eat, I'm still deficient and just started a supplement. I don't know much about additives but I do know that severe deficiencies tend to warrant a weekly, high-dose pill (50,000 units) for 1-2 months, after which blood work is checked again and if your levels are above 30, you go down to an 800-1000 unit per day pill. At least the high dose pill requires a prescription, so I don't think there's too much variety in that department.

    With all that being said, it's not recommended to start experimenting with supplements without professional suggestion, so I would say that for your son, keep up with the vitamin d rich foods (fortified OJ and low fat dairy are the 2 biggies) and only go to a supplement if a doctor or dietitian recommends it based on lab work. The vitamin and supplement industry is not well regulated as of right now, and Vitamin D in particular is a fat-soluble vitamin, meaning your body collects it and stores it really well. Because of this, it has toxicity levels that you don't want to mess around with.

    Phew – I darn near wrote a novel, but I hope that kind of helps!

  25. " First, thank you for writing this blog. I am not sure how I found it but it was right after I learned that my middle and high school-aged cousins posted an event on Facebook about how terrible the school lunch they were being served was. As a result, hundreds of kids brought their own lunch to school one day-leaving only about 20 kids (of about 500 students total) eating school lunch that day. It's a start to changing the way school lunch works in a little town in Wisconsin. "

    That's inspiring!

  26. The best way to get any vitamin or mineral into your system is through food. Your body can only absorb so much of the vitamin/mineral at once so much of what you may receive from a multivitamin just cycles through your system as waste. Also, vitamins and minerals are usually absorbed best in certain combinations (for example, vitamin D aids the body's absorption of calcium), which you get with food but not taking the vitamin/mineral on its own.

    Hope this helps!!

  27. I make sure that any supplements I take do not contain magnesium stearate. It's used as a lubricant in capsules/tablets, but it can actually prevent from 60 to 100% of your vitamins' absorption! Just google 'magnesium stearate absorption' if you want to learn more.

    I take MegaFood One Daily multivamin tablets. It doesn't have magnesium stearate, but it does have 'vegetable lubricant'. After researching for my response to this blog, now I'm wondering if any kind of lubricant will have the same effect on absorption as magnesium stearate has. Regardless, I've been chewing the tablets to make sure that they're more likely to be broken down by my body.

    I don't take oral vitamin D supplements. Instead, I tan every couple of days. I have my own standup tanning system, and I stand in front of it for ten minutes on each side. It makes me feel like I've been on a sunny warm beach for awhile – perfect for snowy freezing days! I bought mine here:

    When I don't tan, I feel more tired, and almost like my face is drooping a bit. I've never taken oral vitamin D, so I'm not sure if it would perk me up like tanning does. Anyway, tanning works for me and if it sounds like a potential solution to you, then I'd recommend researching it from as many angles as possible before you make a decision.

  28. You are never going to get enough Vitamin D3 through food, no matter what these commenters say. You need to be obtaining it during this time of the year by supplementation. Blue Ice fermented cod liver oil is good if you can stomach it. However, I cannot. Fish burps make my gag.

    I take 10,000 IUs of Vitamin D3 daily. My levels are now in the mid-60's and I never get sick. Seriously. NEVER. I buy my vitamins from a local doctor at His website has lots of great information on Vitamin D supplementation including webinars you can watch at your leisure. He's out of Chicagoland so he's local for you as well!

  29. Also vitamin D deficient, I take a multi PLUS an extra 1,000 mg per my endocrinologist. I have an endo because I had my thyroid removed due to Graves' disease about 8 months ago (super, super hyperactive thyroid). I was also having stomach issues so I was gluten free (and meat free) for almost a year. I do not have Celiac's, FYI. I am now eating both meat and wheat again and actually feel BETTER eating them both, weird, I know!
    So random that you posted about GF, Vitamin D, and thyroid within a couple of days of each other! I love reading your blog, I love reading blogs about healthy living and eating in general. Thank you and good luck with the GF/CF baking, it's actually pretty FUN! 🙂

  30. I grew up only taking Solgar brand supplements. My dad was prescribed vitamins when he had a series of heart attacks when I was a baby. He switched to Solgar with the doctor's okay. That being said, I usually take whatever I find on sale. I don't find that the brand matters as much as taking a supplement does. I feel better if I regularly take a multi vitamin, a Vitamin E capsule and a Glucosamine/Chondrointin supplement. I'll still only take Solgar E and I was faithful to Schiff Glucosamine until Walgreens had something else on sale.

  31. I was diagnosed with a Vitamin D level of 6.5 two years ago. At first my dose was 6,000 units a day, but after six months I'd only gone up to 20. Prescription Vitamin D (50,000 units a week) sent it up to 28 but it refused to go higher; matter of fact, it went lower after two months, back to 23. Again we shook our heads and waited another two months (and a lower-still test) before deciding my body just didn't like the specific capsules I was taking.

    Finally, I round-robined different brands. I found one that worked – Carlson's SolarGems. My doctor thinks it's due to the base in the gelcap, as in different people do better on different bases (powder, gel, fish oil, that sort of difference).

    If your 25,D test doesn't show the expected improvement in 3 months, ask if you can try a different brand.

    One very welcome side effect of a higher Vitamin D number is the absolute absence of the crushing pain I used to get in my thighs and upper arms – now I know it was my bones screaming out warnings. I'm just lucky a doctor finally thought to test my Vitamin D, as seven previous doctors had done nothing but write prescriptions for painkillers and tell me to tough it out.

  32. If you're vitamin D deficient, you should take supplements rich in it. For your child, give him/her liquid or chewable vitamins.

  33. Sometimes I wonder why there is so much conflicting information regarding getting enough vitamins and minerals. Fact is it is not a reductionist game of isolating vitamins, as in supplements, for the sake of an arbitrary RDA. Food does not isolate certain vitamins and feed them to you. Foods work with a synergy of compounds and vitamins and fats and minerals etc. They work because they work together.

    They can also work against each other. Eating raw nuts is a good way to keep from absorbing a bunch of minerals because nuts and seeds and grains have anti-nutrients in them that block absorption of the good stuff in other foods.

    Ultimately each person has to learn about food and cooking to stay healthy. Each person has to find the key that fits their individual lock as to how much supplementation they might need if food is not enough. Food=medicine=poison depending on how it is grown,if it is heavily processed, how it is prepared and how much or how little is consumed.

  34. My mom was taking vitamin E, caltrate + D, and other vitamin supplements for a while, then she got sick and the dr found out that her liver was damaged, and order her to stop taking the vitamins… it is risky to take that many vitamins after all…

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