As a nutritionist I get asked a lot of question, about diet, about health, and about supplements. I believe that there is a place for supplements, but I’d like to clear up any confusion about how they should be used and how they are beneficial.
1. Supplements are a great way to reverse nutritional deficiencies
Nutritional deficiencies are the reason that nutritional supplements exist. Deficiencies can be severely detrimental to your health, with symptoms ranging from fatigue and indigestion to rickets, osteoporosis and cancer. If your diet is not sufficiently supplying your body with the nutrients it needs, then you are likely to suffer from nutritional deficiencies that can affect your health. This is where is where nutritional supplements come in, to give you a nutritional boost, while you adjust your diet to prevent the deficiency from happening again.
2. Supplements are not meant to be taken long term
Something I see a lot of is supplements marketed either as meal replacements or to be used alongside your diet long term. The issue with this is that nutrients in their supplemental form, can be harmful if taken long term, without the supervision of a professional. For example, taking a mineral supplement long term, such as zinc, can actually crowd out other nutrients, such as copper, causing a copper deficiency, and a whole host of deficiency symptoms, such as thinning or premature greying of hair, as a result. Fat soluble vitamins, on the other hand (A, D, E and K), are stored in the liver and fatty tissues of the body, so long term supplementation can cause toxicity symptoms if not monitored.
3. Not all supplements are created equally
There are a lot of nutritional supplements on the market; there are the brands available in supermarkets, in pharmacies and health food stores, the brands sold through multi-level marketing, and the practitioner-only brands that are only available with professional prescription and advice.
While some supplements have no difference between them, for the most part, not all nutritional supplements are created equally. There are many different forms of each nutrient; some that are more easily absorbed than others, some that are closer to the form our bodies actually use than others (aka. more bioavailable) and some that can cause more side effects than others.
Usually, the cheaper and widely available supplements are made up of ingredients that aren’t easily absorbed, or ingredients that aren’t as readily utilised in the body as desired. They also usually have just enough of the nutrient in them to to cover the RDI (Recommended Daily Intake) of a nutrient, rather than a therapeutic dose, meaning the amount required to prevent disease. There are no guarantees your body will absorb this amount, and if you are deficient, it’s not enough to boost you back to where your body needs to be.
In addition, there are some forms of nutrients that are better for certain symptoms than others, so while you may be taking calcium carbonate for osteoporosis – it’s calcium, which you know is important for bone strength – calcium orotate is actually a better form of calcium for this particular condition.
So, while the basic principles are there from pharmacy assistants, supplement descriptions and those in multi-level marketing, the specific information on what will give you the best results is best sought from someone who has done the in-depth training to know the difference, such as a nutritional medicine practitioner, like me.
4. Supplements are not intended to replace fresh whole foods in your diet
This is probably the most infuriating point for me. Supplements are not the same as whole foods.
While multivitamins can provide you with nutrients that meet RDIs, they don’t provide all of the unknown substances available in fresh food, and the forms of nutrients in the supplements aren’t as bioavailable as those found in nature.
I have seen lately, people justifying their crap diets because they can take their supplements to cover what they don’t eat. But it’s just not true. We haven’t yet discovered completely manufactured replacements for our food, so no matter what marketing you hear, please, don’t believe it.
Fill your diet with fresh, preferably organic veggies, and some fruits, meats, poultry, eggs, fish, legumes, wholegrains. Drink lots of water.
If you have any concerns about your supplements, or think your body needs a boost, book an appointment with me.
I am more than happy to go through any supplements you are taking and get you on the best nutritional plan for your personal health goals.