To Supplement or Not to Supplement?

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Supplements have been around for decades.  I remember when I was a kid, my mom was a frequent flyer of a fellow church member’s MLM supplements.  There were things I’d never heard of like lecithin and products I didn’t understand like royal jelly face creams.  I have no idea what the quality was or if they were even necessary.

Today, supplements are making a comeback like I’ve never seen.  There has been a lot of controversy around quality as well as whether or not we even need them.  There are also differing opinions from all sides on what the recommended minimum requirements of necessary vitamins and minerals should be.  I’ve read that the RDA (recommended daily allowance) for Vitamin C in the U.S. was developed to avoid scurvy but not necessarily to avoid a whole host of other ailments.  There are those who use scare tactics about the dangers of supplements. I’ll say up front that supplements are not a leading cause of death in the United States.  Iatrogenic deaths, however, are the third leading killer in the United States.  Iatrogenic is the term for medical-related deaths; including death by prescribed levels of medication (not overdose, or abuse of prescribed medication).  The latest annual report from the American Association of Poison Control Centers’ National Poison Data System reported zero deaths from any non-medical supplements, including vitamins, minerals, amino acids and herbs.

Today I’m going to touch on a few supplement topics.  Please note that I am not making a case for or against supplements for any one person.  Everyone is different.  We live in different environments with different toxins, have different lifestyles, eat different diets, experience varying levels of stress, and have different susceptibilities.  What I will say up front is that I recommend everyone include testing for key nutrients as part of their regular blood tests.  I’ll talk more about this later.

Vitamin C as an Example

Vitamin C is a good example of how critical nutrition and a healthy diet are to health.  An article published by the University of Maryland Medical Center highlights the important role vitamin C alone plays in our health.  Vitamin C is an antioxidant that provides us with protections from free radicals that damage our DNA.  DNA damage can lead to cancer.  Excessive free radicals can also accelerate the aging process, and contribute to chronic diseases like heart disease and arthritis.  Vitamin C is needed for the growth and repair of tissues, helps our body make collagen, cartilage, tendons, ligaments, and blood vessels.  It is needed for healing wounds, bone and teeth health, and aids the body in absorbing iron from plant-based foods.

The article points out that “low levels of vitamin C have been associated with a number of conditions, including high blood pressure, gallbladder disease, stroke, some cancers, and atherosclerosis.”

Diet as a Factor

I am a huge proponent of obtaining nutrition through diet.  When we eat to live, we stand the best chance of obtaining the necessary nutrients and antioxidants from our food.  Obtaining essential nutrients from our diet is still the best package.  Vitamin C by itself is not nearly as powerful for general health maintenance as vitamin C packaged with all the other vitamins, minerals and fiber contained in whole foods.  Vitamin C, as with anything else, is best absorbed in its natural state.  And when we eat organic, whole, unprocessed foods, we are eating fewer unhealthy, processed foods deficient of any real nutritional value.  Our bodies need nutrients to survive and thrive.  There is no question about that fact.

However, our food isn’t what it used to be.  The absolute best way to receive the highest nutritional value from food is to grow it yourself organically.  You may have heard the term eat local.  There’s a reason for this.  The farther our food must travel, the less likely it was given time to ripen in place.  Why is this important?  Plants are imbued with characteristics for survival.  When they fully ripen before being picked they have developed these properties more fully and pass them on to us; e.g. antioxidants.  When fresh food must travel from another state, country, or continent its nutrient value degrades quickly.  By the time it hits our tables, it has lost nutritional value.  And most times it’s picked before it’s ripe so that it is not spoiled by the time it hits the grocery store.

Back in the day, our food was local.  Our ancestors either grew it themselves or got it from neighbors and neighboring farms.  It was fresh and healthy and sustained health at more optimal levels.  Additionally, the soil was healthier. Healthier soil provides more nutrients and a more diverse microbiome, essential for our human microbiome.  People grew their food and ate it fresh the day it was picked, ripe.  The excess was canned, preserved and fermented to provide for the cold non-growing seasons.  Studies have shown that today the soil is so depleted, in part from modern agricultural practices, leading to lower levels of vitamins and minerals in our food. It is estimated you would have to eat eight oranges to get the same amount of Vitamin A as our grandparents got from eating one.

What Should I Take and How Much?

First, whatever you decide, make sure the supplements you take are high quality.  My recommendation is to consult with a doctor well-versed in supplements.  For many, this comes by way of their chiropractor, naturopath or functional or integrative medicine MD.  These medical professionals are in tune to preventive health care in particular.  But before you even get to this stage, I highly recommend being tested for deficiencies.  There are certain vitamins and minerals that are so crucial to health they should not be overlooked.  A short list would include vitamins A, B (folate and 12 especially), C, and D.  In the mineral department, iron should be tested.  Anemia and thyroid issues are growing and directly tied to levels of iron in the blood.  As for hormones, vitamin D and thyroid levels are disturbingly low across the population, especially in women, giving rise to many of our chronic diseases.

I cannot over stress the importance of being tested and counseled by a health care professional who is well-versed and in tune to the significance of these deficiencies.  I am currently battling anemia, which I fettered out myself with the help of my chiropractor.  The sad part?  I was regularly seeing a hematologist/oncologist who never raised a red flag despite flashing warning signs that I was trending in that direction.  (A hematologist is someone engaged in the study of the cause, diagnosis, treatment, and prevention of diseases related to blood.  Anemia is a blood disorder.)  By all accounts, I should not have ended up in this state.  Luckily, I am educated enough to know what to look for and how deep to dig, and I caught it before it became debilitating.  Everyone needs a partner in health they can trust.

For a detailed look at these topics and more guidance on how to choose high-quality supplements you can pick up the Inside the Bottle e-guide Understanding Supplements Today by visiting the Delicious Living Website or clicking here.

Yours in Wellness,

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