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Take your vitamins: Most Americans are deficient in one nutrient or another

Magnesium, B-12 and Vitamin D are some of the most likely culprits for deficiency.

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  • | 8:20 a.m. October 20, 2021
Arielle Bennett
Arielle Bennett
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You can eat well, and you can exercise, get plenty of sleep and try to do everything right by your body. But if you’re a person living in the modern world, you should probably be taking some sort of nutrient supplement. 

“When you think about it, if you're going to drive your car really hard, you have to change your oil more frequently,” said Arielle Bennett, a nurse practitioner at Sarasota IV Lounge. “It's the same thing. If we're going to drive our bodies really hard, we're going to require a lot more fuel to do so.”

In an ideal world, people could get nutrients they need, such as vitamins A, C, D, E and K, as well as magnesium and B-12, from food. However, according to Scientific American, food has actually been getting less nutritious, thanks to a higher amount of carbon dioxide in soil. Crops grow bigger but have less nutrients. Combine that with intensely active modern lifestyles, high levels of stress and exposure to toxins, and you’ve got a bunch of anxious, depressed, nutrient-deprived humans. 

“We all want to be really successful and effective and efficient and all these things, but we forget that we're putting more stress on our body, so we need to give our bodies more fuel to be able to handle all that,” Bennett said. “That person who is active and doesn't slow down to eat the right foods or the person who's just eating a bunch of processed foods all the time, not getting fruits and vegetables, not exercising, you know, not handling their stress appropriately is more likely to be deficient, or people who have a lot of (gastrointestinal) issues, if your gut is not focused on digesting and absorbing nutrients.”

Bennett said people are likely to be deficient in magnesium, B-12 and vitamin D. Despite living in the Sunshine State, she said everyone she’s ever tested who is not taking vitamin D has been deficient in it. Going out in the sun just isn’t enough. 

“There's a big difference between the recommended daily allowance and an optimal level,” Bennett said. “A lot of labs will tell you any level of vitamin D level from 20 to 100 (mcg) is normal, but somebody at 20 is really at a high risk for developing viruses and cancers and things like that, so often I would like to see a (level of) greater than 50.”

And yet you probably shouldn’t run out and buy the first bottle of multivitamins you see on the shelf at the drugstore. Too much of a good thing can be a detriment, and fat-soluble vitamins like A, D, E and K should be taken with caution. Lots of vitamins are full of synthetic variants or fillers that are harder to digest. It’s not uncommon to have stomach trouble when taking vitamins, too, which can be a benefit of the IV drips at Sarasota IV Lounge, because it bypasses the gastrointestinal tract to absorb more of a pure vitamin. 

“You want to make sure it's third-party tested, pharmaceutical-grade supplements, organic, as much as humanly possible, especially with vitamin C, specifically, a non-corn source,” Bennett said. “Those are all the things that we know. … My son lives in Illinois, and if he goes somewhere to get an IV, if he's getting sick or something, I'll call and be like, ‘Well, tell me about your sources.’” 

It’s also possible that a specific person’s system just isn’t equipped to utilize a certain type of nutrient. For example, some people can’t convert synthetic B-12, also known as cyanocobalamin, into the active, usable form. A micronutrient test can help suss out what the best situation is. 

A lot of people don’t know what they don’t know. For some nutrient deficiencies, there aren’t noticeable symptoms. However, magnesium helps run more than 300 biochemical processes in the body, and magnesium deficiency can manifest cardiac abnormalities, muscle cramps, fatigue and anxiety. A deficiency in B-12 can lead to numbness of the extremities. Usually, people get a good amount of vitamin C from their diet, but because it helps the immune system and is a water soluble vitamin, try to get as much as you can. 

“It’s not not even so much necessarily that people are super deficient in vitamin C, but we require so much more,” Bennett said. 

Getting a more balanced body starts with eating better. Eat your leafy greens, seeds and nuts to maintain better levels of magnesium and salmon, egg yolks and mushrooms to get more vitamin D. However, it’s probably worth it to take a multivitamin to support your body in a busy world — just make sure you check your sources.


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