18 Feb What’s the Deal with Supplements Anyway?!
“Should I be taking supplements?” “Is taking a multi-vitamin good enough?” “Do supplements actually work?” “Why are supplements so expensive?” “Why should I take supplements?”
I hear these questions a lot. I understand that there is a lot of conflicting information available so I’d like to take the time to address some of these commonly asked questions regarding the use of supplements.
I will start by saying that I think there is enough evidence to support the use of supplements for health maintenance, improvement and even the treatment of many health conditions. As to whether or not you need to take supplements, the answer may very well be no. Most common daily-use supplements like your single or multi-vitamins and minerals are designed to fill in gaps in your diet. This essentially means that someone eating a well-balanced diet that is nutritionally sufficient for their body’s activity level would not require supplementation. So take stock and ask yourself does your diet fit this description? For many of us, for one reason or another – busy lifestyle, not great cooks, picky eaters, etc… – the answer is quite simply no.
As to whether certain products “work” or produce optimal results, I’ll say we are all different and this means that not every product will yield desired results for every person that takes them.
4 Reasons your supplements may not be “working”
- Poor quality. Often times you get what you pay for. Some less expensive products are filled with fillers and sugar and often don’t have therapeutic quantities or very bioavailable forms of nutritional components. This means that they don’t have enough nutrients for your desired effect and/or the nutrients aren’t in a form that is easily and efficiently absorbed by the body, so again you aren’t getting enough. Of course this doesn’t apply to all inexpensive products.
- Improper supplement use. Maybe the supplement you’re taking isn’t the best option for you and your condition. Or maybe you’re not taking the supplement optimally. For example, some supplements are best taken with, or without, food.
- Poor digestive health. If your digestive system isn’t absorbing properly it won’t matter on the quality or amount of supplements you’re taking, you very well likely won’t get desired results.
- You haven’t given them enough time to yield the desired results. Sometimes health improvement takes time.
It should also be noted that not even your best quality multi-vitamin can make up for a poor quality diet.
When might you want to consider supplementing?
- When your diet and lifestyle just aren’t quite enough. For many North Americans who tend to follow a standard American diet, which tends to be high in carbs and protein with low nutrient density from fruits and vegetables, supplementation may be a consideration as nutritional deficiencies may have developed. Our soil is also losing its nutritional value which is resulting in our fruits and vegetables being depleted. Also, in North America, especially in Canada, we aren’t getting enough vitamin D as a result of not getting enough direct sunlight most of the year due to the angle of the earth in relation to the sun.
- You have a health related condition that you would like to treat naturally.
- You are at risk for a health condition and would like to take preventative action. This could mean that you have a family history of a particular condition, are at a certain age, and/ or are a certain fitness level which increases your risk for a condition.
- Your digestive health isn’t optimal. Are you experiencing gas, bloating, constipation, diarrhea, or reflux after eating? These are signs that your digestive health isn’t working optimally. Improving your digestive function very important. An optimal digestive system helps to ensure that proper absorption of nutrients occurs, which are necessary for optimal health!
3 Supplements to consider for daily use
- Magnesium. Magnesium deficiency is becoming a common cause of health related concerns. This mineral is required for hundreds of biochemical reactions in the body and is therefore important for keeping us healthy and functioning optimally. Supplementing with magnesium can relieve a number of common symptoms such as headaches, muscle tension, menstrual cramps, and digestive complaints. Magnesium occurs naturally in food such as dark leafy greens, avocado, fish, beans, nuts, seeds, whole grains, and dark chocolate 😉
- Vitamin D. Low vitamin D status in people has been linked to a number of health issues such as low immune function, weak bones, and cardiovascular disease. Vitamin D is made by the body through a process that starts with skin exposure to sunlight.
- Probiotics. Probiotics have been a hot topic of research in recent years, which is showing that the benefits of a healthy gut bacterial system are seemingly endless! Probiotics have been linked not only to improve digestive health, but also improved immune function and even improved mood. Sources of probiotics tend to come from fermented foods like sauerkraut, kimchi, kefir, kombucha tea, miso soup, and yogourt (try goat or coconut milk yogourt if you have difficulty with cow’s milk).
If you have health concerns and are considering taking supplements, I strongly recommend speaking to your naturopathic doctor, or other health care provider, especially if you are taking medication and/or are looking to replace your medication. Some supplements and medications should not be taken together. Remember that just because supplements are natural, doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t exercise caution when taking them.
If you would like to discuss the benefits of supplementation on your health, please contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org to book a free Discover Naturopathy consultation.
I look forward to helping you reach optimal health!
Dr. Catherine Newry