“Should I be taking supplements?”, “Which supplements are best for me?” and “Are supplements a waste of money?”, these are some of the many questions I am asked weekly.
When it comes to nutrition I am all for getting them as nature intended – directly from our food sources. However, as the world continues to change, sadly, it is becoming increasingly more difficult for us to obtain or absorb the right amount of some of those much needed nutrients from our foods alone. This can be due to a number of reasons. Some of these include:
The soil our produce is grown in contains many nutrients which end up in our food. However, when it comes to conventional farming many of those vital nutrients are lost. Certain nutrients are added back into the soil but the majority of those vital nutrients our bodies need are still missing. If they aren’t in our soil, they aren’t in our food.
2. THE DEMAND ON OUR BODIES FOR MORE NUTRIENTS
Many of us feel we now live in a fast paced world where we are struggling to deal with the high levels of stress both internally and externally. The stress response increases the demand for nutrients such as B vitamins, vitamin C, zinc, magnesium and antioxidants. These nutrients are key elements in fighting against inflammation caused by the stress response and creating enzymes to assist with regulating that response (i.e. bringing us back to calm). The stress response is a normal reaction in our body but when it begins to get out of our control, our bodies can’t keep up. Again, eating a nutrient dense diet and practicing mindfulness will assist in managing stress levels however, creating this practice doesn’t happen overnight. Is your body chewing through those vital nutrients to keep inflammation at bay?
Stress also impacts our gut health which affects absorption of nutrients among many other things. This brings me to number 3….
3. POOR BREAKDOWN AND ABSORPTION DUE TO A COMPROMISED GUT
Over time, our exposure to inflammatory foods, alcohol, medications, others toxins and stress can impact on our gut health. This includes inflammation to the gut lining, low stomach acid and the balance between good and bad bacteria. As a result, this impairs the absorption of vital nutrients the body needs ultimately leading to malnutrition. While we repair our digestive system it may be necessary to assist the body which in turn heals the gut quicker.
4. OTHER UNDERLYING HEALTH CONDITION
In some cases there may be an underlying condition that is causing the body to deplete, not breakdown or correctly use vital nutrients in the body. This can appear in pathology results where we see low levels of nutrients such as iron, vitamin D, iodine or B12, for example. As we investigate to see what the cause is, it can take time to rebuild lost nutrients from eating foods alone. This can have a huge impact on our health while healing. It is important to get to the source of the deficiency as simply taking iron (for example) because you have low iron is not fixing the cause.
Supplements can be helpful but can also be harmful
Many of us self prescribe when it comes to supplements. We feel tired so we grab some iron tablets, buy a quick multivitamin while at the supermarket or grab some fish oil from the supermarket “...because I am pretty sure I saw on the news they help with memory right and I am forgetting things a lot lately.”
It is important to understand that while supplements can improve our health:
- They are not created equally. I use practitioner only grade supplements in my clinic as I know large amounts of research have gone into sourcing a quality product that is combined with the right ingredients to improve absorption and interaction in my clients’ bodies. Much of their budget is put into countless studies to improve the product, not marketing through celebrities on TV. It is a billion dollar industry after all!
- Cheaper isn’t always the best. Many of us are spending money on supplements that have been marketed well but aren’t actually working. That being said, some of them do work great but I am going to say a minority of them.
- Some of them are harmful. They may contain products that are doing you more harm than good with many containing inappropriate quantities or ratios of certain nutrients. This can cause damage to the liver and kidneys if not monitored.
- What supplements are right for your condition?
- Unexpected side effects.
- Interactions with medications and other nutrients
- Genetic variations and the inability to breakdown certain forms of nutrients
- How to take them e.g. quantity, away from certain foods/beverages and what time of day?
Above all, supplements are supplements. They are designed to be taken alongside a nourishing diet. If you are taking supplements you feel are not right for you please contact myself or a qualified health care practitioner and have a chat to see what’s right for you.