to supplement or not to supplement?

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Is it necessary? If so, what do you recommend and why?

These are the supplement questions most commonly asked, and often debated by clients, friends, family and the like. Here is my attempt to answer them to the best of my ability, of course in my own opinion. I hope that you can take this information and decide what is best for you and your family, but please do your own research. We must take health into our own hands and learn how to decipher through the copious amounts of conflicting information.

To simplify, yes, I do believe supplementation is necessary and highly recommended. Now I know you are going to want more information than that…so here’s how I came to this conclusion.

Why do we need to supplement? Don’t we get what we need from food?

To begin this convo I need to dig deep, right down into the soil! You see we get nutrients from food, yes, but the food needs to get them from somewhere – the soil. Therefore soil quality is incredibly important, and we are extremely dependent on the soil. Let’s take a look at the “ideal” world vs. reality today as far food and soil quality are concerned.

An Ideal World

  • We have several feet of top soil
  • We rotate our crops as to not deplete the soil of the same nutrients year after year
  • Each year the soil is replenished with compost and manure to ensure nutrients are being returned to the soil
  • The soil retains all 50+ minerals required to maintain healthy plants (food) and therefore a properly functioning human body
  • Plants are healthy, not requiring too much human intervention
  • Crops are grown organically (without chemical fertilizers and pesticides)
  • Food is picked when ripened by the sun
  • Food is eaten just after being picked
  • Food does not undergo heavy processing or too much heat
  • Food scraps go back into the compost pile
  • Our bodies are satisfied having received the nutrients it requires, we are healthy
  • The cycle continues…

Reality Today

  • We have a mere 6” of top soil
  • Most industrial farms use mono-cropping (one crop, year after year), which depletes the same nutrients from the soil, without rotation or replenishment
  • We use chemical fertilizers to “replenish” soil, unfortunately they mostly only contain Nitrogen, Phosphorus and Potassium…only 3 of the 50+ minerals that plants and humans need to be strong and healthy
  • Plants become weak without proper nutrients to allow them to grow
  • Bugs come and attack
  • We use chemical pesticides to attack the bugs
  • Often times we use genetic modification so we can use more chemical pesticides
  • Food is picked before it is ripe
  • Food is often ripened artificially with chemicals during transit
  • Food travels hundreds or thousands of miles to get to the grocery store
  • Food is processed (stripped of what little nutrition remains), packaged, then more chemicals are added to preserve
  • Food sits in grocery store waiting to be purchased
  • Food sits on our counters or in our fridge before consumed
  • We eat nutrient depleted, chemical infused food
  • We are still hungry, our bodies having not been nourished with the vitamins and minerals they require
  • We eat more nutrient depleted, chemical infused food
  • The cycle continues…
  • Eventually we become overweight, under nourished and sick

Wowza, that was quite the depressing road I just took you down! Okay, you may think this is an extreme version of reality today, but really – is it that far off?

Very few of us (if any) can realistically live in the “ideal world” scenario I described, perhaps unless you are living solely off your own land (ahh, the dream…one day). Even if we are eating 100% organic food, how far has it travelled to get to you? Was it from a small scale farm where crops are rotated or is it “big box organic”? Was it ripened in the sun? Do you eat it right away? You see how there are SO many factors to consider the nutrient quality of modern day food…it’s really enough to make your head spin.

Top nutrition scientists and Naturopathic Doctors featured in the movie Food Matters (a highly recommended must watch) say that if you have sub optimal nutrient levels you can eat raw veggies all day, but you still wont replenish nutrient deficiencies from the past. Therefore in the case of sub optimal nutrient levels (reality today), or worse – deficiencies, supplementation is required.

This brings about a whole new point….can we get by on “sub optimal” nutrition?

Many nutritionists and other natural healers believe that the deficiency of nutrients can contribute (or cause) disease, therefore replenishing these nutrients (among other treatments) can bring the body back into balance and sometimes can even reverse disease. The body is quite amazing at continuing to function with sub optimal conditions for an extended period of time, but in reality this is just setting the stage for disease as we grow weaker.

RDA’s (Recommended Daily Allowances)

But this glass of orange juice says I am getting 100% of my daily requirements for Vitamin C, why would I need more?

RDA’s were designed to help prevent diseases of nutrient deficiency. For example the RDA of Vitamin C is 60mg/day, therefore if we were to receive at least 60mg of Vitamin C/day we should prevent scurvy (the Vitamin C deficiency disease).

Us nutritionists look at these RDA’s as the MINIMUM WAGE OF NUTRITION. Personally, I don’t want to earn minimum wage, nor do I think my body deserves the bare minimum. Early hunter gatherers are believed to have consumed at least 640mg (10x or current RDA) of Vitamin C/day, and many believe we need much more than that to achieve optimal levels. Some Naturopathic Doctors have used upwards of 100,000mg (1667x the RDA) of intravenous Vitamin C for cancer treatments.

As far as I am concerned, when it comes to myself and my family, I’m aiming for OPTIMAL NUTRITION (or as close as I can get). Therefore we do what we can to ensure we consume high quality, local, organic food that is minimally processed AND we still supplement what I would call “the essentials”. (Check out an Optimal Daily Allowance guide)

What supplements do you recommend and why?

My basic supplement regime or “the essentials” that I often recommend to clients (and take myself, even during pregnancy) looks a little something like this:

Note: these are all taken DAILY for maximum effect.

A high potency multivitamin & mineral (during pre-conception, pregnancy and lactation this would be a high quality prenatal vitamin) – We just aren’t getting enough from our food, did I make that point clear yet? :P A good quality, hi-potency multi usually consists of any where from 2-8 pills/day, not 1. It is impossible to get even the bare minimum from a one-a-day.

I often recommend professional line (or health food store) products, as drug store and grocery store brands are cheap for a reason. They usually contain forms of vitamins and minerals that are synthetic or poorly absorbed (low bio-availability), for example Calcium Carbonate is a cheap source of Calcium with a low bio-availability, meaning we don’t absorb it well (if at all). Microcrystalline hydroxyapatite (MCHC) is a more expensive, but much more easily absorbed form of Calcium. Each vitamin and mineral can come in a variety of forms making it oh so difficult to determine the quality of a good multi, but worth the time and effort, it’s your money, your health.

Probiotics – These are the good bacteria that literally build our immune system. They help us to absorb nutrients and can even help us make vitamins! Many of us have taken antibiotics in the past without having replenished the good stuff, nor do most of us eat enough fermented foods. These are especially important during conception, pregnancy, and lactation because baby’s gut (and even brain) health depends on mommy’s gut health. 10-20 billion cfu/day from a high quality source that is kept in the fridge.

Vitamin D – The “anti-cancer” nutrient almost NONE of us are getting enough of. Years ago even I was shocked to find out my levels were sub optimal and I’m a sun loving, non sunscreen wearing (luckily I don’t burn), whole food eating nutritionist! At least 2000 IU/day is recommended for most, during pregnancy as well.

Omega 3’s (preferably from fish oil) – We aren’t getting enough in the typical western diet (are you noticing a theme here?). If you are eating lots of packaged foods then you are likely consuming a diet high in Omega 6’s. Unless you eat a lot of wild, cold water (ideally low mercury) fish, then you probably get very little omega 3’s to balance out the 6’s. Fats are a really complex topic that deserve a post all on it’s own. Bottom line, many of us are omega 3 depleted and they are SO important for health (blood pressure lowering, anti-inflammatory etc.) that supplementation is highly recommended. The bonus is you will see the effects in your skin and hair almost immediately. 1 tsp – 1 tbsp per day of a high quality fish oil (again you get what you pay for here) ensure it is tested for mercury and processed minimally.

What about ALL the other supplements on the market?

There are SO MANY amazing supplements on the market (and conversely, some crappy ones too), many in which I use or have used in the past, but each and every one of us is different. We require different supplements, for different purposes, in different doses from different companies. This is when you need to seek out your favorite holistic nutritionist, Naturopathic Doctor or other open minded natural health care practitioner to develop a supplement regime that is unique to you. (PS – I’m more than happy to help! And offering 20% off if you book in May or June, 2012)

I hope this helps you get started in your journey towards optimal health! I would love to hear your thoughts, questions and comments below. I will do my best to answer, but I cannot answer individual health questions without having done a proper intake (of course you are always welcome to book a private session).

Links and Resources

Supplement companies I like:

*again I stress the importance of individuality, but I just KNOW you are going to ask which companies I recommend often

Professional (see your ND’s or nutritionists for these ones)

Health Foods Store

Other Great Resources

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