Sifting through Common Health Myths through the Lens of Personalized Vitamin Technologies

Sifting through Common Health Myths through the Lens of Personalized Vitamin Technologies

Consumers no longer have to settle for being lost and confused in the vitamin aisles.  Picking vitamins based on friend’s recommendations, social media influencers, or media stories.  Cobbling together a routine that is expensive and possible very inefficient for their own needs.  Let’s face it – most doctors got 5 minutes of nutrition education in medical school and fail to keep up with the latest studies on nutritional supplements.  On the other end of the spectrum, chiropractors, nutritionists, and functional medicine experts have often pushed too many pills and powders.  Where can a consumer go for proper navigation in this overwhelming portion of their local pharmacy?

There has been a rise in personalized vitamin brands that will tailor a vitamin routine to individual needs.  These companies ask consumers to complete an online profile with health and lifestyle questions.  This data goes into an algorithm, which matches the consumer with their customized supplement routine.  There are brands that will deliver this routine in pill packs, or bundles of supplements.  Other brands will create a tailored all-in-one formula.  There can be real differences in pill load and cost between these models, so the consumer should do their homework and investigate the solution that follows the survey assessment.

5 Common Health Myths, Including a Critical Misconception about Multivitamins

Because I am stressed out and exhausted all the time, my adrenals have overproduced stress hormones and run out of them, so I must have “Adrenal Fatigue”.

This condition is being used to explain every symptom under the sun.  However, in the medical world, it is broadly called into question.  The situation along with the symptoms are undoubtedly real, but the concept of your adrenals wearing out from overuse is not physiologically correct.  The truth is more likely that if you are very stressed out, your adrenals have produced lots of cortisol and it is this excess of cortisol that is making you feel terrible (causing you to gain weight, lose hair, break out and feel exhausted).  Therefore, the remedy is not to give you more of these stress hormones (as is touted by many Adrenal Fatigue champions) but rather to undo the stress, practice better sleep habits, regular exercise, mindfulness and meditation.  Also, it turns out that treating certain nutritional deficiencies can be critical to getting your body tuned up and back in working gear.

Eating Gluten Free is better for everyone.

While it may be all the rage, this fad is not always fabulous and in fact, it can be quite the opposite.  Many products touted as gluten-free are ridden with chemicals and additives including high calorie alternatives to gluten.  There are some people who truly should be gluten-free, namely those with Celiac Sprue, a condition where gluten causes the intestines to get inflamed.  There are people with authentic wheat allergies as well (who get hives, wheezing and other typical allergy symptoms from wheat) but this is relatively rare.  Some people just feel better when not eating gluten and that is acceptable.  Some with arthritis, asthma and some skin conditions swear by it.  Eating a non-processed variety of naturally gluten-free foods can be a healthy diet and a means for some people not to overindulge in carbs.  Many people feel better from a GI standpoint when they eat a gluten-free diet.  However those with Irritable Bowel Syndrome (“IBS”) who don’t have celiac may actually do better avoiding a group of foods, called  FODMAPS ( anacronym that stands for Fermentable Oligosaccharides, Disaccharides, Monosaccharides And Polyols, which is a mouthful but is essentially a bunch of different sugars found in certain foods).  These sugars from some very unexpected food sources may cause unwanted gas, bloating and abdominal discomfort.  Avoiding the FODMAPS (such as high lactose dairy, certain grains and certain fruits and vegetables and not the gluten can be very helpful for some people with IBS.

Getting yearly mammograms is not a good idea.

While certain media sources have recently called into question the usefulness of mammography, it is still the most useful screening test we have for the general female population to detect early breast cancer.  It is the gold standard in diagnosing breast cancer and there is good data to show that early detection does improve mortality in this disease.  However, it is important to understand that screening mammograms should be used in the proper context– generally women 40 and over, approximately once per year.   We are all high risk for breast cancer (1 in 8 women will get this disease during their lifetime and only 15% of those will be women who have a family history of breast cancer!). Certain higher risk groups of women (such as those with known genetic mutations or very strong family histories) should also consider alternating mammography with MRI and having regular very careful physical examination of their breasts.  Newer recommendation also includes screening whole breast ultrasound for women with very dense breasts in addition to mammography.  All women starting in their teens should practice monthly self-breast examination and learn what is normal for their bodies.  Moreover, we should be quick to see professional help if we detect a lump has appeared or changed regardless of our age.

I can still have a thyroid problem if my thyroid tests are normal.

It is somewhat rare, if not unheard of to have a low thyroid when your TSH (a hormone made by your brain that is exquisitely sensitive to circulation levels of thyroid hormone) is in the appropriate range.  This number should typically be under 2.5.  If it is lower than 2.5 it means your brain is sensing enough circulating thyroid hormone and you are not deficient in the hormone.  However, it is common to have many symptoms of a low thyroid– fatigue, weight gain, constipation, thin hair— which are actually due to vitamin deficiencies.  People who have these complaints are usually low in certain essential nutrients such as Iron, Vitamin D and certain B vitamins.

You should not take a multivitamin.

The question about whether to take multivitamin is not whether you should or shouldn’t, but instead what you should be taking and how much.  We are all different and have individual vitamin needs based on our diets, lifestyles and health statuses.  Finding the right balance of nutrients is the challenge.  Most of us do need some additional nutrients since our food supply no longer has the vitamins and minerals it once did and many of us, even those of us who eat very healthful diets, are low in certain key nutrients such as iron, iodine, magnesium and other things.

Busting Myth #5 with Personalized Vitamins

It is easy to see how myths emerge in the public mind and in turn, can be debunked with thoughtful and science-based examination.  The final myth around multivitamins is disturbing on a few levels.  First, the ineffective nature of mass market products is turning off a whole category of people that would benefit from vitamins from the solution.  Category avoidance is a key contributing factor to vitamin deficiencies that can have debilitating consequences.  Secondly, the myth around multivitamins is spreading right as skewed diets take hold in the U.S.  Nobody is eating a balanced diet with the prevalence of vegetarianism, keto, paleo, and other diets.  It is more important than ever to address vitamin deficiencies stemming from these skewed eating patterns.  Finally, the myth spreads as new technology exists to hyper-target vitamin solutions.  The rise of personalized vitamin brands have the capabilities to aim a multivitamin at specific deficiencies or likely deficiencies based on individual health and lifestyle profiles. People are buying into a myth when a better alternative exists to over-the-counter multivitamins based on crude classifications like gender and age.

The myth around multivitamins will start to dissipate as more people gain experience with personalized vitamin solutions.  It is important for consumers to recognize that they no longer need to settle for mass market definitions of their health.  Vitamins can impact health, but it needs to be done with the right composition and dosing.  There are many dangerous health myths, and vitamins are not immune from this effect.

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