A Pill A Day?

How many vitamins in a zucchini as big as his leg?

Raw enough? Squash from the garden.

So there have been copious news articles recently surrounding the efficacy of vitamin supplements: see here and here. But I am wondering has anyone actually ditched their daily prenatals or multivitamin?

Our family strives to eat whole, real foods and minimize processed foods, but even with much of our food budget going to organic produce, grains, dairy and meats, I have also read that the vitamin content in these foods is not what it was 50 years ago. We get our Vitamin D the old fashioned way, by being outside as much as possible (while slathering up with paraben-free sunscreen to protect against the sun even though it costs a small fortune). But we also know that folic acid is so protective for a growing baby. And there is a lot of conflicting information and it is hard to sort out what is legit from what is the vitamin industry trying to stave off this perceived attack!

I feel very unqualified to sort all this out, but also feel it is my responsibility to educate myself to figure out what is best for my family. Any thoughts?

  • http://www.NancyFrench.com/ Nancy French

    I never took vitamins, but I bought a bottle the DAY that study came out. (Before i’d read it.) ha!

  • Marie Basile McDaniel

    Our pediatrician recommended that our toddler get a multivitamin with iron (we’re vegetarians). Although we all eat well (organic, non-processed, etc…) I’m happy to have a back-up just in case. Especially since there are definitely days when my toddler doesn’t eat as much, or is just more picky.

  • LT

    I need to research this more. The article states that there is no evidence that vitamins decrease the risk of cardiovascular disease, cancer, or death. Cancer is a pretty wide umbrella, so I’m not sure of their methods there. But do you take vitamins just to reduce those three things? What about optimizing your child’s development? What about increased energy, which may then help increase exercise, which may help with weight loss and other related illnesses? I know B vitamins give me a boost when I take them. I can feel it just like I can feel caffeine. What about healthier skin? Have these things been measured? I’m questioning quality of life here. Have they measured quality of life differences? Those are things I will ponder and, hopefully, I can find some answers.

    • LT

      Another biggie — What about boosting immunity to common illnesses like the cold or flu? Clearly, I could go on and on with additional questions about other benefits to supplements.

      • buildingcathedralstexasmommy

        These are all really good questions to be asking!

        • Mary Alice

          For boosting immunity, I know people who feel pretty strongly that when they started doing a smoothie in the morning with their kids — including OJ and probiotics, along with berries or other high antioxidant fruit, they were much healthier in the winter.

          • LT

            Mary Alice, I’m all about boosting immunity nutritionally and naturally — We drink lots of smoothies and I love thieves oil and oil of oregano. But we are a family of six, with two school-aged children, a four-year-old, and five-month-old baby. The older kids bring home everything from school, putting the little ones at greater risk! So when something starts to make its rounds in the family, my husband and I will use a combo of Airborne or zinc or other supplements on top of a balanced diet to limit the damage :). I find that I am particularly susceptible to illness when I am pregnant. I am more limited in immune-boosting options when pregnant too. So this is always a battle!

            The short-term targeted supplements for boosting immunity and avoiding/lessening a specific illness have worked well.

          • Mary Alice

            I hear you! We are a family of nine, with two in school, so same deal.

            Do you go on probiotics when a stomach bug is going around? I have friends who also swear by this, but we have not tried it.

            It is interesting that you feel prone to illness when pregnant. I only get seasonal allergies when I am pregnant, that is sometimes my first tip off! My immune system goes in to overdrive/over react mode.

            Another question — a doctor recently recommend frequent tooth brush changes, or sterilizing the toothbrushes after someone has been sick, especially for strep throat, which can re-occur when you go off antibiotics. We did toss all of the toothbrushes after strep a few years ago (a family with strep is hell, imo), but in general I don’t sterilize toothbrushes, perhaps we should?

  • Kathleen

    I’ve read all the articles and it is so hard to know.. While the article might be right that vitamins don’t really effect your risk for cardiovascular disease or cancer, it doesn’t take into account that vitamins can certainly improve your overall health especially in other areas like mood, energy level, and joint pain.
    I’ve recently experienced a lot of health issue especially related to fertility and I was never much for vitamin supplements except my prenatal. After reading Nutrition, Cycles, and Fertility by Dr. Shannon, I decided to buy Optivite and the other supplements she recommends. I feel awesome. I had major anxiety and irritability during PMS time that unfortunately effected my whole family. I think my husband is ready to be Optivite’s spokesperson because he can personally attest to the difference this supplement regime has had on my mood, especially during that time of the month. I also normally get really bad Seasonal Affected Disorder around this time, and despite having lots of sick kids and days cooped up inside, I feel great. So I guess what I am saying is that, while these vitamins may not save me from cancer, I am amazed at how supplementing has improved my mood and energy levels and therefore, it’s worth it to me!

    • Bethany

      Kathleen, you’ve totally sold me on Optivite!! Thanks for the feedback!

      • Bethany

        I just read through Optivite’s description on the website and I think I might be more in the market for a general supplement. Any suggestions? Did the book talk about a general multivitamin for women? I should probably just get the book instead!

        • Kathleen

          I would definitely get the book.. it covers women’s issues of all kinds.. There is a section that talks about how to supplement… IF you just start a bunch of supplements alll at once you could have an upset stomach etc.. She also recommends pro-cycle supplement. I haven’t tried it.. Optivite is supposed to be taken 6 times a day.. I only take three pills a day at the same time in the morning because.. who has time to remember. She recommends taking Magnesium with it as well. I know other women who only take 2 a day. Regardless, the book is a great resource!

          • buildingcathedralstexasmommy

            Agreed! Seriously awesome book!

          • Mary Alice

            I’ll put in my good word for the book as well! We should have a whole post about it. I mentioned this above, but I would suggest everyone keep in mind that starting Optivite, or any other supplement, probably, can mess with your NFP charting signals.

  • Mrs G

    I take vitamins, because they have clinically helped me. I have a folic acid processing disorder, which has led to two babies with birth defects (one who died; one who almost died) and a miscarriage. I am learning what I need to take to avoid that with future babies, and simple vitamin measures are helpful. I’ve tried fish oil for mood and since it actually helped, I keep taking it. Etc, etc. So, maybe some are blessed with awesome health that need no help, if it works for you, keep it up.

  • buildingcathedralstexasmommy

    Interesting comments so far! We tried to conceive for 6 months with no luck 2 years ago, but the month I started taking Optivite PMT, we conceived. I honestly don’t know if there is a link there. As you pointed out, Mrs. G, there are certainly many for whom supplements are critical and necessary. I am so sorry for your sufferings and glad that you know of your folic acid processing disorder.

    The other thing that I find really interesting is the relatively low percentage of income that Americans spend on food (versus housing, cars, etc.) versus other countries that eat better/healthier and enjoy their food more. Would we be better off spending the billions of $$ that is spend on supplements/vitamins on real, wholesome, nutritious food instead??

    • Mary Alice

      This is way TMI, but one of the things that Optivite does is increase mucus, so it helps people to conceive if that is part of the problem (it may also help in other ways, I don’t know). (With that in mind, it also messes with charting for Creighton). I know that Optivite pulled me out of a huge mental health hole, so I believe in the efficacy of targeted supplements like that, but it was prescribed to me. I think that some people are deficient in some things, and that high end supplements can help, but you have to know what you are doing to get the right dose and even the right brand or type and how to take it.

      In general, we don’t take multi-vitamin supplements in my house, and my children seem very healthy to me. We eat much more whole grain and fruit and vegetable than I did growing up, and much less sugar, mostly because we avoid sugar in things like jarred sauces or peanut butter.

      My number one concern for my children’s long term health is sun damage. I have not done as well as I should in protecting them with sunscreen, and I almost find it impossible — they are out swimming for 4-6 hours a day in the summer, and they are deep bronze by the end of the summer. I have to do a better job with this.

  • Michael Cummings

    I am not sure if this is the book I’d recommend. I think my mother bought three of these already:

    http://www.google.com/search?q=common+vitamin+reference&source=lnms&tbm=isch&sa=X&ei=W7fRUsLYCO3NsQT4u4KIDA&ved=0CAgQ_AUoAA&biw=360&bih=567#biv=i%7C65%3Bd%7CF7ahmWYAczmiFM%3A

    Personally I recommend to live where there is abundant water not filled with antibacterials. I’d grow my own food and smoke too, and get a greenhouse for personal use.


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