Multivitamins
A Nutrient for Every Purpose: How Multivitamins Benefit Your Body
Author

Fact Checked By Jill Armijo, PTA, CHC

The Role of Multivitamins

Have you noticed that some of the tiniest things in our world, like viruses, can have a massive impact on your life?

Micronutrients are humongous compared to viruses, but they are only needed in small amounts by our bodies to do incredible things for us.

Some examples are

  • sending messages along neurons
  • supporting muscle contraction
  • communicating between vital organs, and
  • carrying oxygen to every cell in our bodies.

Optimally, we get enough of these micronutrients in our food and water when we eat a well-balanced, nourishing diet, but many people don't eat enough fruits and veggies in today's world.

We can help to boost our intake with multivitamin supplements. It's important to note that too much of some vitamins or minerals can also be harmful.

A multivitamin typically contains vitamins and minerals. Without vitamins and minerals, our bodies don't have adequate team support for hundreds of vital functions (1).

A Group Effort

Vitamins work together with minerals to perform their various operations, such as when our bodies use vitamin D to snag calcium from the food we eat as it travels through the digestive system instead of taking it from our bones.

Our bodies don't create these nutrients on their own in the amounts needed but rely on food to provide the energy and materials to build tissue, heal injuries, and protect us through immunity.

If our bodies lack a particular vital substance required for a chain of events to work, the pathway will be interrupted. This glitch can cause a system to break down, just like a train missing a coupling will leave the following cars sitting on the tracks while it speeds to its destination (2).

Vitamins and minerals have different properties and usually work in harmony for optimal benefits. For example, vitamin C taken with the mineral iron will improve its absorption and decrease anemia (3).

Some vitamins and minerals can also block each other's effectiveness. For instance, if people are iron deficient, they might want to limit their manganese intake, as it can worsen the condition. Another example is an overabundance of sodium which can cause a shortage of calcium.

Interactions and Benefits

There are over thirty vitamins, minerals, and compounds our bodies need. The amounts and varied effects are complex and can seem confusing. But there are facts that we can learn and use to make sense of them and benefit our health.

Our bodies use nutrients to build skin, muscle, bone, and blood cells and provide messaging between organs every minute of every day and night. These tasks require combinations of interactions to successfully create outcomes for our seven major systems (4).

  • Circulation, including respiration and blood transport
  • Digestion and excretion
  • Endocrine glands – metabolism, growth, reproduction, sexual function, and sleep
  • Integument – skin
  • Immunity and lymph system
  • Muscles
  • Nerves
  • Renal and Urinary system

Vitamins are organic, meaning they come from living things like plants. They are affected by heat, air, and water and can become inactivated by cooking, storage, and exposure (5).

Minerals are inorganic (not from living organisms, although they are essential for the growth of living things) and don't lose their structure or value as they make their way from soil and water into plants and animals that become food (6).

Our bodies need minerals in varying amounts, but they're all vital to similar degrees. Some are called major or macrominerals because they're present in relatively large quantities, while others are trace (microminerals) because our bodies only need a little.

The major minerals are

  • Sodium and Potassium help maintain fluid balance, support nerve transmission, and are essential in muscle contraction.
  • Chloride helps with fluid balance and provides stomach acid.
  • Calcium supports bones and teeth, helps muscles contract and relax, and plays roles in nerve function, blood pressure and clotting, and immunity.
  • Phosphorus supports bones and teeth, is in every cell, and helps with acid balance.
  • Magnesium is in bones, protein, muscles, nerves, and immunity.
  • Sulfur is also in protein molecules.

The trace minerals are

  • Iron is part of hemoglobin in red blood cells needed for oxygen delivery and energy metabolism.
  • Zinc is in enzymes, protein, genes, taste, healing, reproduction, and immunity.
  • Iodine is in the thyroid responsible for growth, development, and metabolism.
  • Selenium is an antioxidant.
  • Copper makes up parts of enzymes and used to metabolize iron
  • Manganese and Molybdenum are also in enzymes.
  • Fluoride helps prevent tooth decay and boosts teeth and bone formation.
  • Chromium is needed to help insulin regulate blood glucose levels.
  • Nickel, silicon, vanadium, and cobalt are essential but only needed in tiny amounts (7).

Water and Fat-soluble Vitamins

Some vitamins are water-soluble, and some are fat-soluble. This difference tells us where specific vitamins come from and how our bodies absorb and use them. Vitamins B and C are water-soluble and include biotin, folic acid, niacin, and others (8).

These nutrients dissolve in the watery parts of food and are absorbed quickly into our bloodstream. They circulate throughout our tissues, where our kidneys regulate how much we use, shunting unneeded amounts out through the urine.

It's essential to include these vitamins in our diet every day since our bodies don't store them long for future use. Some of the B vitamins help us extract energy from food and keep organ tissues healthy.

Other B vitamins actively produce energy; vitamins B6, 12, and folic acid build amino acid structures called proteins and increase cell multiplication.

Vitamins A, D, E, and K are fat-soluble vitamins and require bile produced by the liver to break them down in the small intestine. They are absorbed into the bloodstream through the lymph system, often needing a protein to take them to their job site.

These vitamins can be stored in the liver and fat tissues for later use by the body and are released by the liver on demand.

They often work together as they protect our eyesight, skin, and lungs and keep our digestive and nervous systems working optimally. Without adequate vitamins D and K working with calcium and magnesium, we won't have strong (or any) bones (9).

The Extra Mile Vitamins and Mineral

Vitamin C, also called ascorbic acid, can act as an antioxidant or a pro-oxidant, boost iron absorption, help make collagen, heal injuries, support bones and teeth, and maintain the integrity of blood vessel walls (10), (11).

Vitamin E helps our bodies absorb Vitamin A, which supports our eyes and cells; and E also can act as an antioxidant, protecting us against free radical damage to cells.

Our bodies produce antioxidants, which are chemicals, not nutrients naturally, but we benefit from additional help from foods and supplements that provide compounds such as carotenoids, flavonoids, quercetin, and catechins.

Vitamin C and the mineral selenium also act as antioxidants to neutralize the harmful effects of energy metabolism, overexposure to ultraviolet rays, tobacco smoke, and air pollution.

When vitamins C, E, and selenium give up electrons to molecules needing electrons, they neutralize them and bring down the level of damage by interrupting the vicious cycle of cell damage and more free radicals (12).

Summary

While it's possible to have a healthy, balanced diet and not require a multivitamin supplement, many people don't. We need all the vitamins and minerals to ensure our bodies have the tools to perform countless functions.

Become acquainted with the recommended amounts of each nutrient and consult with your healthcare or nutrition specialist as you select the best multivitamin supplement for your body.

Author

Fact Checked By Jill Armijo, PTA, CHC

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