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CHICAGO — The multiple questions that lead to the right multivitamin. Two doctors put their heads together to give patients a more personalized formula.

The shelves are loaded with them — a variety of vitamin supplements so overwhelming, how do you choose the right one?

“We were both seeing a number of patients coming in very confused about what they should or shouldn’t be taking,” said internist and Vous Vitamin founder Dr. Arielle Levitan.

For years, Levitan and endocrinologist Dr. Romy Block have helped their patients piece together the puzzle.

“Not only are a lot of doctors not doing this and things are getting overlooked and people are either missing certain important nutrients or they’re taking too many things and maybe some unsafe things,” Levitan said.

“I would get colds constantly, and I was overdosing on vitamin C. I would take massive quantities, which weren’t healthy for me,” multivitamin user Julia Towne said.

Last year, 47-year-old Julia Towne, a former dot-com executive, decided to overhaul her lifestyle.

“I cut out red meat, I’m reducing the amount of salt I’m taking in, lessening sugar and exercising, but I still didn’t feel one hundred percent. The balance was still off. Even working for a company like Google, where I have access to all this information, it’s information overload. So how do we find something that specifically meets our requirements?” Towne said.

It’s the exact question that inspired the two doctors to provide answers for people like Julia.

“What we found over the years is that nine out of 10 times we can predict what you might be deficient in based on a lot of information we can obtain just from asking you the right questions,” Levitan said.

The answers can be found on their website Finding your formula starts with a survey – a series of detailed questions dictate a multi-vitamin tailored to your needs.

“We vetted every ingredient in a multivitamin. What’s the recommended daily allowance? Should there be more? Should there be less? What is the evidence behind it, and how do you treat someone who is deficient in this?” Block said.

The most predictive factors – where you live and what you eat.

“Living in the Midwest we are almost all vitamin D deficient. If we’re not taking vitamin D it’s very hard to obtain it in this climate because we get it mainly from sunlight, and there are very few good food sources. How much red meat you’re consuming because many of us, in the name of eating a healthier diet, have cut back on red meat, and we’re therefore iron deficient,” Levitan said.

The formula for WGN’s Dina Bair contains iron, B vitamins and iodine, which helps support thyroid health and metabolism

“A lot of people don’t get enough iodine in their diet because they’re eating so healthfully and they’re not eating the processed foods and the table salt that contains iodine,” Levitan said.

“But if you go and take an iodine supplement it could be 65 milligrams. That’s huge! Our formulations, all of them contain 150 micrograms of iodine, which is the American Thyroid Association’s recommended daily allowance to keep your thyroid under control. And something like 65 milligrams in a supplement could actually hurt you. It could make your thyroid over active and cause a lot of health concerns,” Block said.

But it’s not a magic pill. The vitamin supplements are just one component in Julia’s regimen.

“Exercise every day, being able to move every day, eating the right foods and taking the appropriate supplements,” Towne said.

“People who once certain vitamin deficiencies are corrected, they feel incredibly improved, a general sense of well-being, their energy levels. It doesn’t always happen overnight. It takes time to see the effects of these things. It takes several months to build up your stores of key vitamins, so there’s a bit of stick-with-it-ness required,” Levitan said.

Even though the supplements are highly personalized, people with similar lifestyles may be prescribed the same multi-vitamin. In fact, my formula turned out to be exactly the same as our medical producer’s. The vitamins can be ordered on a subscription basis and tweaked seasonally.

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