My multivitamin makes me feel sick
February 8, 2006 9:57 AM   Subscribe

Help me find a multi-vitamin that doesn't make me sick.

I'm a competitive endurance athlete, and am trying to address some dietary deficiencies with a multi-vitamin. (I realize the efficacy question is very much open to debate, but as an athlete I'm open to trying everything I can, legally, to get more performance out of my body.)

My problem: the multivitamin I'm taking now - One A Day Maximum - makes me feel like crap for about 30 minutes after taking it. Nausea, upset stomach, the works. It seems to happen no matter when I take it -- with food, with water, before exercise, at work while sedentary, before going to bed. It's bad enough that I can't really justify taking it, because any nutrition gains are offset by feeling lousy.

Any suggestions on why this is happening, or other multivitamins that might be easier / more digestible? FWIW, I don't normally have a problem taking other medications / large pills.

(*Additional info: The effect seems worse if I cut the pill in half, or take it on an empty stomach, or take it with coffee.)
posted by fearless_yakov to Health & Fitness (35 answers total)
I have zero science to back my claim. However, I have had the same problem with vitamin pills for years. recently find they do not other my stomach when i take them in the morning along with fish oil pills. (the fish oil I take for the omega-3.)

Does the fish oil coat my gut? Has my metabolisim just changed in other ways that have nothing to do with the fish oil. Maybe- I donno
posted by BeerGrin at 10:01 AM on February 8, 2006

I have had this problem with some vitamins, not others. GNC's Mega Man (dumb name, good vitamin) has been pretty good for me, it's not TERRIBLY expensive. Doesn't make me sick, either.

I do make sure to take with food and water, though.
posted by TeamBilly at 10:01 AM on February 8, 2006

I get nauseated from vitamins too. I get VERY sick if I take them with tea, interestingly enough. Have for many years. Usually, if I take them with food or with a lot of water, it cuts down the reaction a bunch, but doesn't eliminate it.

What _really_ works for me is taking them with Vitamin C... I generally take as many C capsules as vitamins. (normally two each, though I'll still get sick on just one multivitamin if I take it without C.) That suppresses the nausea completely.

You could also try different brands. I notice that I get sicker from some vitamins than others. Centrum seems to bother me less than most, though whether or not it's actually a good multivitamin, I don't know.
posted by Malor at 10:02 AM on February 8, 2006

Perhaps try kid's chewable vitamins. You might have to take 3 or 4 to get an adult dosage, but it's probably better to spread it out over the day anyways.

Given that the SMELL of fish sends my daughter into conipitions, I assume she has a tender stomach. She loves chewable vitamins though. (Note to other parents: shes just going through a fussy phase. She won't eat potatoes but eats spicy salami. Dang kids)
posted by GuyZero at 10:02 AM on February 8, 2006

When you say "The effect seems worse if I cut the pill in half," do you mean that taking half a pill makes it worse, or if you cut the pill in half and take both halves, it's worse?

I find that one a days make me a little nauseated, but half a pill in the morning and half at night is fine.
posted by justkevin at 10:03 AM on February 8, 2006

I take two fish oil capsules and a full pint of water with my multi and then drink a cup of tea and I never get that post-vitamin feeling anymore. I have no idea why, but I follow the procedure religiously.
posted by Mayor Curley at 10:09 AM on February 8, 2006

Zinc does this to me without fail, and I wonder if zinc is the culprit. No other vitamins do this to me.
posted by OmieWise at 10:10 AM on February 8, 2006

Try taking a food based vitamin like Megafood or New Chapter brands. They are lower potency but in theory are better assimilated by the body. They can even be taken on an empty stomach, even though you may want to try them with food at first just in case...
posted by krisptoria at 10:19 AM on February 8, 2006

You can also take Flax Oil for the Omega 3, it has no fishy after-burp problems, but I don't know if it coats your stomach.

Given that coffee and tea are diuretics i can't image taking vitamins with them is a good idea.

I imagine what you need to find is something coated, so that pill pass through your stomach before breaking down. I'm not sure how that will effect absorption. Have you tried the vitamins that come as separate pills in plastic packs?
posted by doctor_negative at 10:19 AM on February 8, 2006

Ditto the kids chewables - I take Flintstones Complete (WIILLLMAAAA!!!)
posted by prcrstn8 at 10:26 AM on February 8, 2006

Zinc is known for causing nausea, so OmieWise may be on to something.
posted by occhiblu at 10:28 AM on February 8, 2006

After some trial and error I've noticed that it's definitely the zinc in vitamins that makes me feel sick. I started taking double the dose of my daughter's gummy vitamins and they don't have any effect on my stomach.
posted by photoslob at 10:29 AM on February 8, 2006

I'm a big fan of liquid vitamins--I take Floradix daily (iron supplement with B-complex and C) and I feel like a million bucks with no side effects.
posted by padraigin at 10:29 AM on February 8, 2006

Another vote for the suggestion that zinc is probably what is bothering your digestive system. Try taking separate pills for what you feel is most essential to your regimen.
posted by macinchik at 10:38 AM on February 8, 2006

I really don't recommended anything OTHER than the ultra-mega-super vitamins, the ones that have order-thousands RDA of vitamin C (as a yardstick). They seem to go more for efficacy guidelines than absolutely minimum RDA, a joke in itself.

Now, as for finding the right filler that doesn't make you sick. I think that's always been the problem when I've talked to people that this happens to.

Whole Foods has vegetarian / food-based ultra-super-mega vitamins. If you're male, try to find them without iron, too. You don't need it and it could very well be a cause of this.
posted by kcm at 10:39 AM on February 8, 2006

The other thing to keep in mind with vitamins, and this is about finding an effective one, is that they need to dissolve in about half an hour. You put whatever vitamin you are taking into vinegar for a half hour. If it is not dissolved, then it is not dissolving in your stomach, and you aren't getting the benefit. (FWIW, that advice comes to me from my sister who has a PhD in Food Science and Nutrition.)
posted by OmieWise at 10:39 AM on February 8, 2006

krisptoria beat me to it. MegaFood and New Chapter are whole-food vitamins, everything in them comes from food and fermentation (think yogurt). You can definitely take them on an empty stomach because to your stomach its not empty, its eating a small amount of food. But since you are having problems already try either brand with food. I believe part of what was said previously, that they are not as potent, is because its not lab-concocted pure-vitamin concentrate but instead is food based, besides starting on a lower dosage may be part of the solution and end up being a plus and not a detriment.
posted by iurodivii at 10:47 AM on February 8, 2006

OmieWise et al. are correct. Zinc is highly nauseating in supplement-size doses, although I'm usually OK if I take it after dinner.

If this isn't it, also check out multis without iron, as this will irritate some people's stomachs.
posted by rxrfrx at 10:55 AM on February 8, 2006

You might try a food-based vitamin. They claim to be easier on the stomach.
posted by grateful at 11:01 AM on February 8, 2006

I, along with other people, have problems with Niacin as well. I recently tried some multi-vitamins without the Niacin and it made a huge difference.
posted by sauril at 11:11 AM on February 8, 2006

Perhaps try kid's chewable vitamins.

I'm not an athelete, but I am pregant, which is a little bit the same. :-) My midwife has me eat a bowl of Total brand cereal every day, plus one Flinstones brand chewable vitamin. You might check the dosages of vitamins in this combo -- it certainly has kept me from feeling sick.
posted by anastasiav at 11:24 AM on February 8, 2006

I use Greens+ Multi+, but it's expensive.
posted by Manhasset at 11:29 AM on February 8, 2006

I had the same problem with One-a-Day, and thought I was the only one! Kids chewables work fine for me, although I'm not even close to being an athlete.
posted by ruby.aftermath at 11:34 AM on February 8, 2006

Thanks for all the terrific suggestions. It seems like there is some consensus about Zinc. I definitely have noticeable nausea for several minutes after taking the vitamin. One A Day contains Zn (albeit only 15mg), so I'm going to try for something without Zinc. I notice that GNC Mega Man contains 25mg of Zn - so I may hold off on that for now.

I look forward to trying the whole-food vitamins -- I never even knew they existed.

When you say "The effect seems worse if I cut the pill in half," do you mean that taking half a pill makes it worse, or if you cut the pill in half and take both halves, it's worse?
I mean that even half of the cut-in-half pill makes me very nauseous, very quickly.

no fishy after-burp problems
GROSS. No fishy after-burp needed, thank you...

Have you tried the vitamins that come as separate pills in plastic packs?
Nope. What's the advantage to separate pills? Sounds tedious.

And finally, 2 follow-up questions
1: for the posters who take them with tea, or (like me) with coffee occasionally: Is it possible that the hot beverage speeds the release of the supplement's contents into my stomach? In other words, is the heat removing the supplement's coating too quickly?
2: Do the kids' chewables contain lots of electrolytes? Electrolytes are one of the primary areas I'm trying to address with this. The other stuff (antioxidants, essential nutrients) would be nice too, but the electrolytes are crucial for me.

And yes, I'm a guy.
posted by fearless_yakov at 11:35 AM on February 8, 2006

i am also a competitive athlete (not so much endurance as i do sprint duathlons, but whatever), i have taken Green Source vitamins from Puritan's pride for years. they come withoutand with iron. neither one has ever made me sick.
i also take a time release b complex, green tea extract, MSM, and vegetarian glucosomine at the same time, before breakfast every day.
perhaps my body is just used to it or maybe i have just accidently taken the right thing for me.
i can't think of any multi-vitamin with electrolytes though actually, but i may be wrong.
posted by annoyance at 11:51 AM on February 8, 2006

2: Do the kids' chewables contain lots of electrolytes? Electrolytes are one of the primary areas I'm trying to address with this. The other stuff (antioxidants, essential nutrients) would be nice too, but the electrolytes are crucial for me.

Well, I'm looking at a bottle of Flintstone's Chewables now, and I see that it contains calcium, phosphorus and magnesium, zinc and copper. Additionally, the ingredients list sodium ascorbate (vitamin C) and potassium iodide. So yes, it contains electrolytes.

I don't know if you'd be getting any significant amounts of sodium or potassium from them, as they're used as binding salts-- basically, the vitamin C and iodide need something to attach to.

At any rate, I'm not sure it really matters. How are you trying to address electrolytes? You can't really electrolyte-load like you can carbo-load, as your body will maintain normal electrolyte levels on its own, assuming normal kidney function. Meaning: if you dose yourself with a bunch of potassium via bananas or a pill, your kidneys will get rid of the excess potassium; your body won't store it. If you're trying to replete yourself after exertion, you might be better off rehydrating yourself with a drink containing sodium and potassium such as Gatorade, Powerade or Pedialyte.
posted by herrdoktor at 12:42 PM on February 8, 2006

I recently went through the same thing because my prenatal vitamins were making me throw up. When I spoke with my (very holistic) MD about this, he told me that the most common problem with vitamins is the coating, which is usually made from some animal protein that is hard for the body to break down.

His suggestion to me, and mine to you, was to find a multivitamin in capsules to bypass the whole coating issue. It worked perfectly for me and I never threw up again (well, not from the vitamins!) - hope it works for you as well.
posted by widdershins at 1:22 PM on February 8, 2006

For what it's worth, my morning vitamin (Centrum) occasionally nauseates me. I've always assumed it was the niacin.

Theragran-M didn't do that, but it seems to have gone off the market.
posted by ikkyu2 at 2:23 PM on February 8, 2006

Also, I've noticed the effect is worse with coffee and on an empty stomach. That's one of the reasons I think the niacin might be to blame; niacin is a potent vasodilator.

With regards to electrolytes, presumably you mean sodium and potassium, and maybe calcium and magnesium. You simply can't get enough of those in a little pill form to make very much difference. If you're interested in electrolyte repletion, I suggest you experiment with various dilutions of powdered Gatorade or something similar.

Bear in mind that high concentrations of magnesium have a mildly depressant effect on cardiac output, so don't overload on that one if you want to be at your aerobic peak.
posted by ikkyu2 at 2:27 PM on February 8, 2006

Maybe try the Jamieson chewable "Vita-Vim" adult multivitamins. The chewable and "Level 1" kinds with 20 vitamins and minerals don't have Zinc, and the wildberry flavour actually tastes good, and they don't appear to be coated. My stomach has felt upset with some multivitamins in the past, but not with these.

It occurs to me that they're a Canadian company - I'm not sure you could get them in the US. But maybe worth a look?
posted by Dasein at 2:58 PM on February 8, 2006

Centrum makes chewable vitamins for adults. Regular multivitamins nauseate me as well, but this one has not.
posted by minarets at 3:26 PM on February 8, 2006

I've become quite enamored of the orange flavor "Ola Loa" vitamins. It is packets of powder to be mixed with water & drank. It tastes like weak Tang, and gives me no stomach issues. I've felt noticeably better since I began taking the stuff, so if nothing else, it's got great placebo value.
posted by Triode at 4:41 PM on February 8, 2006

Like the docs have said: if you eat healthy and are healthy, you probably don't need a multivitamin every day. You pee most of it out.
posted by gramcracker at 4:46 PM on February 8, 2006

I suggest looking at the form of iron included in the vitamin. Ferrous sulfide makes me very ill. Ferrous fumarate does not.
posted by SPrintF at 7:13 PM on February 8, 2006

for electrolytes, try Emergen-C it comes in a slew of flavors all in single serving packets that you can mix in a glass of water anywhere. and its packed full of vitamins and minerals too.
posted by iurodivii at 8:42 PM on February 8, 2006

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