The latest craze over new, nutritional supplements seems to be on the News every week — Take Vitamin D. Make sure you take a probiotic. Consume Omega 3 supplements. X supplement can help you avoid Alzheimer’s Disease — It goes on and on. It can get very confusing and frustrating. The first thing to remember is that the News is searching for viewership. Most news stories are written to get you to watch more News. The second thing to remember is that the supplement industry is a multi-billion dollar a year industry. This means there are huge advertising dollars spent on marketing the supplements to you.
With all the conflicting information on supplements, how do you know what to take, what your body needs, and for how long? As a Functional Diagnostic Nutrition® Practitioner here is what I do personally and suggest to my clients.
3 Reasons to Consume a Supplement
If you are considering taking a supplement only take it if it falls into at least one of these categories. If you are taking it because a news story or a friend said you should, you may want to reconsider.
1. Relief Care: Take a supplement to provide relief or to feel better and avoid taking drugs.
2. Therapeutic or Corrective Care: When there is a nutrient imbalance in the body, supplements can help to correct this imbalance as lifestyle changes in diet, movement, sleep and self-care are made.
3. Maintenance Care: As balance is being restored, some supplements might need to be taken for a long period of time to maintain your health. For example, Vitamin D is almost impossible to get in the correct amounts in North Dakota where I live. The sun is just not high enough and most of us aren’t in the sun without sun protection. Vitamin D may be one that you need to take to maintain your health.
3 Purposes of a Supplement
1. Substitute: If your body is not producing enough for what you need, you might need to supplement. An example would be a digestive enzyme if your stomach is not producing enough enzymes to break down your food.
2. Stimulate: If you need to get an organ or system working harder you may want to stimulate it. An example could be oil of oregano or Echinacea to stimulate your immune system if you are at risk of getting a cold.
3. Support: If one of your organs is not producing enough of a vital nutrient you might need to help support it. An example would be adrenal support because the adrenal system can’t keep up with the amount of stress you are under.
Natural vitamins, minerals, and herbals are not intended to treat any specific disease. I personally only take supplements that are necessary to substitute, support, and stimulate in order to achieve and maintain the optimal health of my body.
How Long Do You Take Supplements?
It depends on which of the three reasons you are taking the supplement and for what purpose. Relief care should be the shortest amount of time with maintenance care the longest, if not indefinitely. There should only be a few in this category. Always know the reason and the purpose of the supplement, and it will help you determine when you no longer need it.
Do You Really Need to Take Supplements
If you are having symptoms or imbalance in your body, supplements can help you avoid medications while you make lifestyle changes to support your body function properly. You might think they can get all you need from food. If you are eating a plant-based diet that is organic along with other organic or natural foods, you may need very few. However, please remember that our food no longer has the same amount of nutrients it had in it fifty or more years ago. Due to the depletion of minerals in the soil, as well as our farming practices of producing larger amounts in a shorter period of time, our food just doesn’t contain minerals that it once did.
Another issue may be that your body is unable to breakdown and assimilate the nutrients in foods. This can also happen with the nutritional supplements you take. Any digestive issue can cause issues with breakdown and absorption. Sometimes symptoms you have such as skin issues, headaches, brain fog may not make you think that you have digestive problems, but those symptoms can be tied to improper digestion, and nutrients aren’t being absorbed to it fullest extent.
A Note on How to Take Supplements
You may have purchased a few different nutritional supplements in the past, brought them home and started taking them all at once at the recommended dosage. How do you know which one is helping or not helping your body? It is best to add in one supplement at a time at a slow rate in order to read your body signals. As an FDN-P I can help you determine what you may need to take, for what reasons and purpose, as well as how to take them so you can read your body. That way you should know your particular correct dosage.
An important thing for you to consider is where you purchase your nutritional supplements from. Did you know that supplements are under the umbrella of food so the “FDA is not authorized to review dietary supplement products for safety and effectiveness before they are marketed.” Source. The FDA looks at supplements when there is a complaint, not before. The company is responsible for the safety of its own supplement. Fraud is rampant in the industry. For me, that means I only purchase my supplements from pharmacies, reputable companies and directly from pharmaceutical grade manufacturers. I strongly recommend you stay away from purchasing your supplements from box stores and the largest online retailer, Amazon.
Supplements can fit into an overall healthy lifestyle, but should never be the first step. Buying them can simply be a waste of money if you haven’t taken the time and effort to identify which supplements your body needs. You also need to be making lifestyle changes in your food, movement, self-care and sleep to make the most of the supplements you take.
Find Out More
When you work with me to help you tackle your health concerns by making lifestyle changes, we will, together, figure out what nutritional supplements you need, based on your lab work and symptoms. Your body is meant to be in homeostasis and supplements can be a part of helping you achieve balance. Schedule a free, short phone chat with me.
Grab Your Spreadsheet
When you take more than a couple of supplements, it can be hard to remember which ones and when to take them. Grab this easy to use spreadsheet to keep track of the supplements you take. Previously this was only available to my paying clients, but I am making it available to everyone for your convenience.