Just like diet and nutrition, dietary supplements are a topic that many find mystifying. Some folks will flat out wonder if supplements are even necessary. Spoiler alert: if you live on this planet, and have a human body, then yes.
The main argument I hear against supplements is this one: I’d rather get my nutrients from healthy food. Oh, where to begin?
First, very few of us have a 100% pristine diet chock full of all our bodies need for optimal functioning.
Second, even if you are the rare individual who has educated yourself so you have a deep understanding of what your unique system needs and how much, AND you have a perfect diet that includes 7-9 organic veggie servings/day (BTW, I have never met this person, so if you know her, send her my way—I want to congratulate her) you still would have the following issues:
- The food we get, even if organic, local, home grown etc, is not as nutritious as decades ago, mainly due to soil depletion. The soil simply does not have as much of the “good stuff” in it, so the plants that come from it are deficient as well. Everything we buy also lives in air and water pollution, which depletes nutrient value.
- Additionally, adults all have different levels of digestive capacity and most of us have some level of dysbiosis by the time we are in our 20s or 30s, which means imbalance in our digestive systems. Many of us have intestinal permeability, or leaky gut, which means most of what we eat does not get properly utilized by the body.
This is most often due to poor diet, chronic stress, not enough rest or exercise, antibiotics, hidden bacterial, parasitic or fungal infections and other issues that may, or may not yet, be causing noticeable symptoms. All of these factors cause us to have less of the beneficial flora in our digestive tract, which then impedes our ability to fully and efficiently extract the nutrients we need from our food. So even if the food going in is perfect (basically impossible) we still would not be getting enough of what we need solely from our food.
What’s the answer?
Supplements. Granted, supplements are not a substitute for healthy nutrition. They are needed to, wait for it, supplement what we consume. That said, are all supplements created equally?
No, of course not.
There are high quality, medical-grade supplements made by reputable manufacturers who hold to best practices of testing for potency, purity and effectiveness. These are worthwhile to include in your diet.
There are also cheaply made inexpensive brands, found often on the shelves of your pharmacy and many times on sale or Buy One Get One Free. As with most things, in supplements, you get what you pay for. The cheaper supplements may not even include the vitamin or mineral they claim, or not at the amount they advertise on the label. They often include extra fillers that are highly inflammatory, like gluten, milk, soy, corn. And they may also be sourced from a country that has lax regulations and minimal testing for dangerous contaminants like lead, or sewerage.
Unfortunately, many supplements are sold by networking marketing or MLM (multi-level-marketing) companies and these are also not of the quality of a medical grade supplement. The MLM business model only works if they keep product costs as low as possible to allow for each level of the pyramid to make a profit. It is all sales and marketing driven and if studies are done at all, this “research” is often done by the MLM itself or paid for by the company. Not surprising, that “research” always concludes that their brand of supplements is the best.
I don’t trust my health or the health of my clients to anything but known, well-researched and proven, medical grade supplement brands—the type that are only available through reputable health practitioners. That’s what I take myself and recommend for friends, family and clients.
Every one of us has different needs, which is why I carefully review client medical history, and facilitate the client’s functional medicine lab tests, to get a full picture of his or her health before suggesting specific supplements. That way we know exactly where they most need support, and they are not just taking a bunch of pills based on what they heard was healthy.
That said, there are a few supplements that every adult is highly likely to need and they are :
- A high-quality, multi vitamin
- Extra Vitamin D, esp if you don’t get much sun
- Omega 3 high potency fish oil
- Probiotics (the type you need will vary)
Those are the baseline for all of us and then depending on your unique body requirements, you go from there.
Lastly, unless you have a vitamin deficiency disease, like scurvy or rickets, you are unlikely to immediately notice a marked effect when you take a supplement. It’s not like taking a pharmaceutical drug. Supplements are there for us to tip the scales in our favor by making sure our nutritional needs are met and they can support our digestion, calm our stress levels, even soothe our digestive tract for better nutrient absorption and support other vital body functions. Remember, supplements can never replace a nutritious, well balanced diet, so we must start there for best outcomes.
I want to hear from you! What do you think about vitamins? How have you worked them into your routine? Post a comment here.