There is some debate in both the healthcare sector and community at large as to whether we really need supplements. Some argue that we get all the nutrients we need from food, where as others point out that maybe our food doesn't have the level of nutrients that it once had. In addition, there is some confusion around the difference between RDI (Recommended Daily Intake) - which is essentially the amount required so we are not deficient in that particular nutrient; and a therapeutic dose (where larger doses of a nutrient are used to treat a specific condition).
In Australia, an overwhelming majority of the Australian public are consumers of vitamins and supplements, an industry which is estimated to be worth about $1.5 billion.
In clinic, I often have clients come in with shopping bags of supplements that they are taking. These supplements are of varying quality, sometimes out of date, and have been prescribed by various practitioners or self-prescribed.
I couldn’t possibly tell you without seeing you in person whether you need to take supplements, or which supplements you should take.
I would need to look at your diet, lifestyle, current stage of health and possibly run appropriate blood tests to answer this question. Naturopathy is about tailored health care which looks at the needs of the individual.
What I can advise is to first look at the building blocks of good health – this is good nutrition, a healthier lifestyle, exercise, fresh air, sunshine and lots of water.
That being said, sometimes supplementation is required in addition to cleaning up your diet and lifestyle. Modern farming methods, genetically modified strains and food processing can impact on the levels of vitamins and minerals present in our foods.
Sure, some popular food brands may advertise that they have added nutrients, but really these are there to make up for the nutrients lost in processing, or are so full of sugar that they are best avoided anyway, regardless of the added vitamins and minerals.
The thing with supplements is…the supplement must be right for you. For example, we all know that magnesium is a vital nutrient for health. However, magnesium comes in many forms – some which are better absorbed than others. And depending on your specific health requirements, sometimes you are better taking magnesium with certain co-nutrients to enhance its action in that particular system of the body.
The other important factor is that when it comes to supplementation, you get what you pay for.
Cheap supplements are not as potent, have less nutrients and are often bulked up with fillers that provide nothing in the way of health. Or they may not be created in a form which is used efficiently by the body.
I generally advise people to avoid supermarket and bargain supplements. Frankly, I find that they don't work nearly as well as a quality or practitioner-prescribed supplement.
Choose supplements either with advice from a Naturopath or qualified healthcare practitioner, or from a trusted health food shop or pharmacy with Naturopaths in store.
Be wary of what is advertised in the media, and definitely avoid Multi Level Marketing products where you buy supplements and diet products from well-meaning friends who don’t have any proper training or qualifications in healthcare.
Certainly never buy your supplements from the ‘specials’ bin outside the pharmacy. Fish oil is a fantastic and beneficial supplement when it is fresh and of superior quality, but it can actually go rancid sitting in the sun outside the local chemist.
My personal preference for everyday health is for naturally-derived vitamins and minerals, as I believe they are better absorbed by the body. A "greens" powder is a good example of this. However when looking for a specific action or therapeutic benefit, then sometimes a more formulated preparation is required.
So, when it comes to supplements:
1. Get professional advice from a qualified healthcare practitioner who actually has formal and clinical training in nutrition, herbs and vitamins/minerals – such as a qualified Naturopath, Nutritionist or Herbalist.
2. Buy the best quality supplements you can afford.
PS – If you would like a consultation with a Naturopath who cares about your health and wellbeing, and not about selling you supplements, then get in touch! I'd love to hear from you.
Book a consultation or free no-obligation discovery call here.
Naturopath, Nutritionist and Herbalist