The Multivitamin Argument

The Multivitamin Argument

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The recent research findings from 1,443 Australians who take a multivitamin has once again reignited the benefits or otherwise of taking a supplement.  NPS Medicinewise has marched into the findings, urging Australians to “take care” and to be aware of “potential side effects or interactions”.

In almost 40 years of “integrative” pharmacy (that’s my terminology which is accepted by my patients), I’m yet to see anything other than positive results when a multivitamin is used, whether or not is has herbal additives.

I’m always amazed at the medical beat-ups which follow the release of news like this, which invariably happens at a “no-news” time of the year!

When you consider the number of people we see whose ability to digest and assimilate food is severely compromised by proton-pump inhibitors, and/or bad food choices, then the addition of a multivitamin and mineral supplement to replace the essential nutrients is a basic treatment.  Many people suffer from dry mouth, as a direct result of drug therapies. Larger food particles therefore enter the digestive pathway, and can’t be adequately and suitable assimilated.  A multivitamin and mineral supplement is an obvious solution.

Alcohol plays a part in the lives of many Australians, and I’m referring here to the responsible use of alcohol.  Our liver and pancreas works hard to break down the alcohol. Alcohol damages our intestinal lining, thereby compromising the efficient absorption of B-group vitamins, magnesium, zinc and calcium.

Bizarre diets invariably cause nutrient depletion.  Regular use of a multivitamin and mineral combination is an essential consideration.

The biggest issue we confront today is the role of ongoing stress on our adrenal system.  Stress causes inflammation, be that emotional, chemical or physical, and it increases our requirements for the B-group and C vitamins.

Our intestinal lining can be damaged by hot coffee, tea and spices, thereby affecting the secretion of digestive fluids, which results in poorer extraction of vitamins and minerals from food.

Smoking increases the metabolic requirements of vitamin C. Other than a supplement, how can that be replaced?  Foods rich in vitamin C oxidize once they are cut, juiced, cooked or stored in direct light or near heat.  Our immune function needs vitamin C.

Many older Australians take a regular laxative.  Many laxatives used to excess can cause large losses of minerals such as potassium, sodium and magnesium.

Convenience food plays a major role in many households.  A diet of highly refined carbohydrates such as sugar, white flour and white rice places greater demand on additional sources of B-group vitamins to process these carbohydrates.  An unbalanced diet contributes to conditions like irritability, lethargy and sleep disorders.

Older patients invariably have low intakes of vitamins and minerals, particularly iron, calcium and zinc.  Folic acid deficiency is common.  These deficiencies cause ongoing issues of impaired sense of taste and smell, reduced secretion of digestive enzymes, chronic disease and physical impairment and serious restrictions to their quality of life.

Invalids, shift workers and people whose exposure to sunlight may be minimal suffer from poor levels of vitamin D.  Lower levels are endemic at the moment.  A supplement is the obvious solution.

I can’t accept that a multivitamin is a medicine.  It’s an adjunctive therapy.  According to the press release, three in five Australians probably agree, and probably regard a multivitamin as supportive to their nutritional intake and is a complementary therapy, to help balance the nutrients required for homeostasis.

I certainly support the involvement of a health professional in the appropriate prescribing of a multivitamin.  Ad hoc purchasing doesn’t give respect to the role of the therapy.  As health practitioners, we need to advise on the formula, the dose and the expected outcomes.

Our patients deserve that.

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