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Why you are not absorbing multivitamins and how to fix it


Are you getting enough vitamins and minerals from your diet?

You would think that nutritional deficiency is no longer a problem for the 21st century. But did you know that about three-fourths of the American population is not getting enough vegetables, fruits and fibre?

Most people are in a state known as “hidden hunger”. This is when people are eating more calories than needed, but not enough nutrients. The processed sugars, oils and sodium make up empty calories, which add no nutrition and throw the body even more out of balance.

What this means is that you may be deficient in a number of vitamins, minerals, fibre and phytonutrients (nutrients from plant sources). At the same time, processed food introduces toxins and oxidative stress, putting your body in a constant state of imbalance and chronic inflammation. A study published in Nature Communications has shown that the standard western diet is high in animal proteins, fats and low in fibre, which is linked to higher risk of gut inflammation and cancer.


How can we fix our health and nutrition?

The ideal situation is to eat a variety of organic, non-genetically modified fruits and vegetables every day. But in this day and age, this is hard:

  • The soil is not as nutritious as before due to environmental damage and overuse
  • Pesticides are overused to increase crop yield
  • Some crops are genetically modified
  • People are busier nowadays and tend to eat more processed fast foods
  • Many people have poor absorption due to leaky gut or irritable bowel syndrome

Because of these factors, we need to consider two important questions:

  1. How can we fill in the nutritional gap?
  2. How can we optimize gut absorption?


Multivitamin and mineral supplementations are often the solution to the first question. But there are people who already take loads of supplements but still test deficient on their blood tests. Why is that?

This is when gut health comes in. There are 200 trillion microorganisms or bacteria that live in our gut. These little bugs can be good or bad. The good bacteria help us digest food and absorb nutrients, but the bad ones can damage our gut mucosal layers and cause inflammation. When that happens, you not only get irritable bowel issues, but also poor absorption.

So, to solve the nutritional deficiency problem, we have to have a great gut health first. Without great absorption, you are just wasting money at supplements.


How can you improve nutrition and gut health at the same time?

To improve gut health, we need to have predominantly good bacteria in our gut.

Probiotics are nature’s best solution for this problem because they are literally live bacteria that are going to replicate and flourish inside of you.

A number of peer-reviewed scientific studies have shown that specific probiotics can have benefits such as:

  • Treating diarrhea
  • Reducing inflammation
  • Preventing colon cancer and cardiovascular disease
  • Promoting satiety, weight loss and obesity
  • Improving irritable bowel syndrome, Crohn’s disease
  • Reducing distress and chronic fatigue
  • Improving depression

Although taking a probiotic by itself can deliver millions of microorganisms into your gut, there is no guarantee that they will survive for more than a day if you don’t feed them the right nutrients.

Our gut bacteria, just like us, need to feed on the right foods. For them, this is fibre-rich food from plant sources. Thus, just drinking kombuchas or taking a capsule of probiotics every day is not going to make a difference if you don’t also eat plenty of fruits and vegetables.

You might be thinking, how on Earth can I keep these good bacteria alive if I can barely squeeze in a few vegetables and fruits in my day?

If this is you, a combined whole food multivitamins, minerals and probiotics supplement sounds like what would work best.


How can you choose the right one?

Is there really a supplement that contains only the good nutrients, but no additives?

I am glad you asked, because your worry is absolutely correct!

Unfortunately, most of the multi-vitamins and minerals that you can buy on the shelf are synthetic vitamins. There are also plenty of probiotics out there, but they may not contain the right bacterial strains!


Whole food multis vs synthetic multis

  • Synthetic vitamins are made from chemical in a laboratory, they are not naturally found in the environment. So, your body may not absorb them well. But they are cheaper and last longer for the manufacturers!
  • Whole food vitamins are essentially concentrated fruits and vegetables, which are bioavailable and natural to your body.

Doesn’t the truth sound scary? If you choose the wrong types of multi-vitamins, you could be doing more damage than help to your body. The synthetic molecules are not natural and force your kidneys and livers to work even harder.

On the other hand, when a multi-vitamin & minerals are made from whole foods, you are not just consuming certain molecules, but a whole range of nutrients, co-factors and enzymes that work synergistically in your body. For example, a study have shown that natural vitamin E can be absorbed twice as efficiently compared to synthetic vitamin E. In another study published on JAMA, synthetic folic acid and Vitamin B12 supplementation actually increased cancer risk and mortality rate in patients with heart disease.

When it comes to probiotics, you also need to see what strains are included because not all of them are backed up by science.


What probiotic strains have shown benefits?

Some bacteria, such as Lactobacillus, Bifidobacterium and Streptococcus, have a clinical effect on gastrointestinal inflammation.

Studies using VSL#3, a probiotic mixed with

  • 4 Lactobacilli (L.) (L. casei, L. acidophilus, L. delbrueckii subsp., Bulgaricus)
  • 3 Bifdobacteria (B.) (B. longum, B. breve, B. infantis)
  • 1 Streptococcus (Streptococcussalivarius subsp. thermophilus)

have yielded the most available evidence in patients with irritable bowel disease.


Watch out for additives!

Lastly, you also need to watch out for sneaky additives that may be hidden dangers. For example, artificial sweeteners can induce glucose intolerance by changing your gut ecosystem. Similarly, emulsifiers could reduce gut bacterial diversity and increase your risk of inflammation and leaky gut.

Other additives that you should watch out for are:

  • Artificial colours
  • Artificial flavours
  • Preservatives
  • Sugar
  • Soy
  • Gluten
  • Sodium
  • Oil
  • Milk


Ultimate guide to reading a nutrition label

Knowing these, let’s summarize how you should read a nutrition label

  1. Natural ingredients from fruits and vegetables
  2. No synthetic vitamins and minerals
  3. Non-genetically modified (Non-GMO)
  4. Probiotics containing proven beneficial strains
  5. No additives

Below is a perfect example of a natural multivitamins and minerals with probiotics that passes all the criteria, see if you can also find:

  • A wide spectrum of micronutrients from vegetables, fruits, herbs, mushroom and berries
  • Probiotic strains shown to have beneficial effects
  • Plant-based omega sources (not from fish and thus no heavy metal pollution!)
  • Natural digestive enzymes


After reading this blog, do you now understand why our body needs multivitamins, minerals and probiotics from natural sources? Are you confident what to look for in a nutrition label?

This is why we pride ourselves on our Whole Food Multivitamin and Mineral with Probiotic  which is formulated with whole food extracts including flaxseed to deliver ultra healthy, natural, vegetarian sources of omega 3 and 6 essential fatty acids for ultimate heart health!




We used the exact strategy to find that sadly very few products could pass all these criteria, but the above example is one that we could recommend. Read more about it and users’ feedback here.



Stephen J. D. O’keefe, Jia V. Li, Leo Lahti, Junhai Ou, Franck Carbonero, Khaled Mohammed, … Erwin G. Zoetendal. (2015). Fat, fibre and cancer risk in African Americans and rural Africans. Nature Communications, 6(1), 6342.

Scott, K. P., Gratz, S. W., Sheridan, P. O., Flint, H. J., & Duncan, S. H. (2013). The influence of diet on the gut microbiota. Pharmacological Research, 69(1), 52–60.

Burton, G.W., Traber, M.G., Acuff, R.V., Walters, D.N., Kayden, H., Hughes, L., & Ingold, K.U. (1998). Human plasma and tissue alpha-tocopherol concentrations in response to supplementation with deuterated natural and synthetic vitamin E. The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, (4), 669–684.

Ebbing, M., Bønaa, K. H., Nygård, O., Arnesen, E., Ueland, P. M., Nordrehaug, J. E., … Vollset, S. E. (2009). Cancer Incidence and Mortality After Treatment With Folic Acid and Vitamin B12. JAMA: The Journal of the American Medical Association, 302(19), 2119–2126.

Jotham Suez, Tal Korem, David Zeevi, Gili Zilberman-Schapira, Christoph A. Thaiss, Ori Maza, … Eran Elinav. (2014). Artificial sweeteners induce glucose intolerance by altering the gut microbiota. Nature, 514(7521), 181–186.

Benoit Chassaing, Omry Koren, Julia K. Goodrich, Angela C. Poole, Shanthi Srinivasan, Ruth E. Ley, & Andrew T. Gewirtz. (2015). Dietary emulsifiers impact the mouse gut microbiota promoting colitis and metabolic syndrome. Nature, 519(7541), 92–926.

Pandey, K., Naik, R., & Vakil, S. (2015). Probiotics, prebiotics and synbiotics- a review. Journal of Food Science and Technology, 52(12), 7577–7587.

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