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Multivitamins and Immune Health
By Dr. Luke Bucci, PhD
Flu shots, a new COVID vaccine, a new school year, planning for holiday travel – it’s immune system season. To celebrate, we’re updating Dr. Bucci’s immune overview blog, which lays out points of concern and general practices for how to help your beleaguered immune system and keep you healthy.
Unsurprisingly given his background and nutritional expertise, Dr. Bucci goes beyond the usual admonishments about eating right, exercising right, and getting enough sleep. Reminding us that those are dependent on each person’s habits and knowledge of what is right for them. “We’ll assume you know how to exercise right and sleep,” he told us before – of course – complicating even that basic observation: “However, one oft-overlooked solution to the ‘eating right’ part is whether or not to take a multivitamin/mineral (MVM) dietary supplement. Short answer: Yes, take one!”
Anyone familiar with Dr. Bucci’s work won’t be surprised by that big “however.” They also won’t be surprised by the short answer/long answer approach, and they’ll be expecting what comes next. We’ll let Dr. Bucci take it from here.
WHY AN MVM? THE LONG ANSWER
Rather than hiding behind results from published scientific articles, with the usual diametrically opposed, pro-and-con conclusions, let’s look at why. Why take an MVM?
There are three good reasons:
1) nobody always eats right;
2) the human body is hugely complicated; and
3) exercise stress.
Nobody Eats Right
It’s easy to say and prove that nobody eats right all the time, but considering just the essential micronutrients like vitamins, minerals, and fatty acids (MVMs), there is excellent science to support that nobody always gets enough through normal intake – what you eat.
Look no further than the United States National Health and Examination Survey (NHANES) data for the past 40 years (https://www.cdc.gov/nchs/nhanes/index.htm). Since these data are free for use, many scientists have explored in-depth and found that, regardless of which “daily value” guideline one choses to follow, over 97% of us do not get enough potassium, Vitamin D, and omega-3 fatty acids (EPA, DPA, DHA) to support normal health. Not getting just those three essential nutrients suffices to put all of us at risk for something wicked to happen sooner or later unless you ensure these nutrients are made sufficient in intake. (Spoiler: they rarely are.)
And that’s just for starters – there are about 10 other micronutrients that 50% or more of us are not reaching a healthy intake of. Because of the nature of essentiality, if you do not get enough, you cannot keep normal health. So that’s strike one.
Your Body Has Complications
Even if you get enough intake of an essential nutrient, there could still be problems. Why? We’re all complicated and different, and have hidden gremlins (called your personal genetics). The recent explosion of knowledge on genetic and epigenetic influences on nutrient functions is showing that pretty much all of us have multiple DNA glitches that decrease how we utilize each and every micronutrient.
This information is becoming readily available, and is being used to “guide” dietary and supplemental MVM changes, but has not been embraced by those who tell us what to do based solely on intakes. Bottom line – even if you do eat right, your own self is short-circuiting your pathway to perfect health. Strike two.
We all know too much exercise can diminish your health. And we all know where that line is and we all try to exceed it. Overexercise places additional nutritional demands that are difficult to meet with even a healthy diet, and one result of exercise stress is immune function derailment.
Your immune system needs all essential nutrients to function properly – just boosting Vitamin C will not fix a Vitamin D deficiency or replace potassium. If you chronically undergo exercise stress, you are about to get to Strike three.
I’ll stop here with the doom and gloom so we can have a happy ending to this story. There’s a fix, and it’s as easy as taking an MVM.
Strike one – intake – is a modifiable risk factor. You can simply adjust your diet (not as easy as it sounds, and few can maintain the rigor to get sufficient intake of all crucial nutrients without excess calories). Or, more simply, you can take an MVM dietary supplement, like First Endurance’s MultiV. That way you get plenty of MVMs, except for omega-3 fatty acids (that is another story for another upcoming blog).
Strike two is also a modifiable risk factor. You cannot change your DNA sequences in every cell, but you can change your environment to make epigenetic changes for the better. [Note: we are not discussing relatively rare Inborn (Congenital) Errors of Metabolism that are an extreme example of genetic glitches. An example is phenylketonuria, or PKU.]
We are concerned here with polymorphisms (DNA sequence variations), some mutations, and epigenetics (how your diet affects gene expressions, which finetunes health). Again, the answer to remedy these lesser genetic variations is simply to consume more of the affected nutrient. And also again, the easiest way to do this is to use a daily MVM like MultiV or MultiV-PRO.
Strike three is a modifiable risk factor, and we’re not talking slowing down exercise. Since most pathways in your body that use nutrients are concentration-dependent, more intake = more concentration = more function. The easiest way to increase concentration is to take an MVM supplement. Strike three can be avoided by taking an MVM to fix the factors affecting your health – just keep in mind that MVMs are not allowed to fix potassium intakes and omega-3s are difficult to put into MVMs.
Micronutrients: Critical for Immune Health
Obviously, all bodily systems, organs, tissues, cells and organelles depend on a lively supply of the stuff constituting MVMs. Your immune system is no exception. Your immune system is extraordinarily complicated, always changing, creating and destroying immune cells every second, and requires prodigious percentages of your caloric and MVM intakes.
Nutrient needs for immune functions can ramp up immediately, and – if nutrient status is not up to snuff – the immune responses may not match the stimulus. It is well known that intense exercise puts a further demand on nutritional needs of the immune system. Another good reason to use a daily MVM. The idea is to provide your body with enough intake of MVMs that you can rule out MVM deficiencies as a potential for problems. One less thing to worry about.
Normally I like overkill for referencing statements, but there is such a large body of information and misinformation on this broad topic, it would be overkill for understanding the concept of why a MVM is needed to have a reference list longer than the text (by far).
This blog is intended to plant a concept seed in everyone’s minds – thus, it is better to rely on many years of life study honed under the harsh glare of academic, scientific, regulatory, and legal scrutiny to deduce and explain the big picture. Future blogs on specific topics will be precise and referenced.