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Multivitamins Vs. Individual Vitamins — Which Are Better For You?

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The wellness world can often feel overwhelming or confusing — especially considering the fact that there seems to be a new trend popping up daily. For example, what's the best dietary plan for your body's needs? Or is CBD able to replace your current method of stress relief? And when it comes to supplements, things can also be a little murky. If you've ever asked yourself which is better in terms of multivitamins vs. individual vitamins, you're not alone. But thankfully, medical experts are weighing in on this great debate to help you determine which is best for you.

Many women take multivitamins regularly — but may not even really know why. You may know the use for a few of the ones in your current mix — like vitamin D for bone health or vitamins A and E for healthy skin — but some experts argue that the inherent problem with going multi is that it probably contains a few things you don't really need. Additionally, it may not offer some that you do need.

"According to the Council for Responsible Nutrition (CRN), 53 percent of U.S. adults take a multivitamin, which means more than half of Americans may be missing important nutrients that can help with their individual health concerns." says Angie Kuhn, MS, RDN, and Director of Nutrition and Research for Persona Nutrition. "What’s more, a multivitamin will not address specific nutrient deficiencies resulting from dietary preferences, lifestyle factors, or prescription medication use." And brands like Persona work by addressing these factors — including dietary preferences, stress levels, sleep patterns, health conditions, fitness activities, and prescription medications — to create a customized pack.

And midwife and herbalist Dr. Aviva Romm MD agrees, adding that an important advantage of going "a la carte" with your supplements — as approved by your physician, of course — is a lessened chance of getting too much of something you body doesn't need. Or worse, that's actually toxic for you. She explains that while an excess of many water soluble vitamins (like C or B complex) is simply eliminated through your urine, fat solubles (E, D, and K) may be more harmful when taken beyond what your body needs.

Unlike water soluble vitamins, fat soluble vitamins are stored by the body. Therefore, when taken in excess over time, they can build up, leading to health problems. One example of this can be seen with vitamin A. "Excessive vitamin A intake can lead to a condition called hypervitaminosis A that may include symptoms such as dizziness, nausea, coma, and even death," explains Amy Gorin, a NYC-based dietary nutritionist.

The concept of taking certain vitamins in excess should also be taken into consideration whether you're going multi or individual, as Romm suggests that you might be taking supplements that include more than you think. "These excess doses are a problem when you’re combining supplements because many products on the market duplicate nutrients across the board," she says. "So if you’re taking, for example, three different products, say one for sleep, one for hormone balance, and a multi, you can easily reach or exceed that max daily dose and cause toxicity."

If you are going a la carte, the experts also have a few suggestions for vitamins that tend to be beneficial to most women (in approved doses). "Vitamin D supports immunity, blood sugar balance, thyroid function, bone health, and hormone balance, to name a few important actions," says Romm. And Gorin adds that folate is important whether a woman plans to get pregnant or not. Beyond that B12, magnesium, and omega-3 fats all offer a wealth of health benefits.

Getting some vitamins individually also doesn't have to mean tossing your regular multi. "Typically a combination of these approaches is what most of us need," says Romm. "The daily multi to get what we’re most likely not getting from foods even when we’re eating well, and the a la carte for those nutrients you are low in or need to bump up for one reason or another." That said, for your most customized approach either way, it's best to check with your doctor and adjust accordingly.