A question I hear regularly from individuals concerned with optimising their youth and wellness is, are supplements necessary and do they really work?
The answer to both questions and of which is often the case in holistic medicine, is it depends...
Depending on the health of your body, your diet and lifestyle practices and both the quality of the supplement and relevance to your health, the chosen supplements can be incredibly useful or completely unnecessary.
Analyse for a moment the functioning of your body, your energy production, focus, stress responses, sleep quality, digestion, menstrual cycle, pain perception, physical fitness and health at large. Is there any area you feel you would like to improve the function of? Now, think about your diet, do you eat unpackaged, varied, colourful and well-produced clean produce for 85% of your meals, while also getting moderate sun exposure?
If you answered no and then yes, then I don’t feel that supplementation would be necessary for you. You can always go the extra measure and look at familial conditions or have genetic testing run to look for preventative support from natural medicines if you wanted to go the extra mile. For those of you who aren’t meticulously focused on your diet and in optimal equilibrium, there is a good chance that suboptimal nutrient levels could arise and that the optimisation of your health would benefit from supplements.
When it comes to our food, unfortunately modern farming practices rely on replenishing soil with just the bare minimum for producing robust, fast yielding crops with little regard for the minerals the body needs most. Organic foods have higher levels of flavonoid antioxidants, phytonutrients, vitamin C and the minerals iron, magnesium and phosphorus, then their conventionally farmed counterparts. Additionally with the reduced pesticide burden, organic produce doesn’t require additional nutrients for detoxification of chemicals. Eating organic or biodynamic produce is however too expensive and labour some for the majority.
Most individuals also fall short consuming a balanced diet, as few as 7.5% of adults eat the recommended 5 serves of vegetables per day. Couple this with the abundance of digestive issues, overuse of medications and the chronically stressed state many adults eat in and you can see how easy it is to experience malabsorption of some major nutrients, leading to the need for greater intake.
Of these nutrient deficiencies some of the most common are vitamin C, vitamin D, iron, magnesium, calcium, B12, B6, iodine, zinc and vitamin A.
At this time we are bombarded by so many pseudo education channels telling us what supplements to get these nutrients from, it can be incredibly overwhelming.
Firstly, trust your holistic health professionals over social media endorsements. If you don’t have access to a health professional, many quality supplement stores have naturopaths and nutritionists in store that can direct you to quality formulas. Ask for over the counter practitioner line brands over your supermarket or discount pharmacy lines.
Lastly, you can still access relatively good quality vitamin and minerals from a wide range of sources if you know what you’re looking at. So to outline some of my favourites nutritional supplements that can commonly be lacking in our diets and most needed for 21st century health optimisation.
When it comes to minerals two of my favourites are magnesium and zinc supplements, you are best using an amino acid chelate form, of which the best will specify bis or hdiglycinate.
Magnesium tablets should provide 150mg-200mg per tablet and you may take up to 4 of them if needed. Zinc supplements should provide an elemental daily dose of 25-50mg per tablet. If you’re stressed, having sleep issues or sugar cravings, magnesium is a great place to start.
If you’re suffering from acne, rosacea, dermatitis, eczema, have slow wound healing or keep getting recurrent infections, zinc is likely to be helpful. Iodine is a very important mineral for thyroid, brain and female reproductive health issues such as PCOS and fibrocystic breasts. Iodine should be avoided by those with hyperthyroidism and taken under guidance in Hashimoto’s thyroiditis. Iodine in Australia is mostly found as potassium Iodine and dosing around 300mcg a day is standard, larger doses can be safely prescribed through health professionals.
Low mood, fatigue and lowered immunity can all be caused by a lack of vitamin D.
Vitamin D supplements are all the same form in Australia, the ideal standard for supplementation is to check your levels and then dose from there. If you live in a climate where you experience a variation of a cold and hot weather, it’s mostly safe to take 4000iu through the colder months, then break from it when you have more sun exposure. If you strictly avoid the sun year-round you could drop the dose to 1000iu in the warmer months.
We all know that great benefits of vitamin C. The good news is it’s also fine to take in any form, however the most bioavailable is a liposomal vitamin C, which begins absorption in the buccal mucosa of the mouth and then is very readily absorbed through the gut wall into the blood stream. This delivery method is superior for many nutrients but also expensive for the consumer. Other forms of vitamin C can be optimised in their absorption by dividing the dose into 500mg increments, allowing for the intestinal cells to have the best chance at absorbing a
larger portion of the formula. If you use a high dosing powder you could put it in a drink bottle and sip on it over time, introducing smaller absorbable doses.
B vitamins such as B12 and B6 have had a glow up in recent years, you can now access them in their activated forms, these are more bioavailable and readily used by our bodies. B6 as pyridoxal 5- phosphate (P5P) and B12 as hydroxycobalamin and comethylcobalamin are my favourite forms. Activated complete B formulas are great for those with stress, fatigue and liver detox support concerns.
Well that’s plenty to get you started on your health optimisation journey with nutritional supplements. We can’t all be perfect all the time. So supplements are there to bridge the gaps and give you extra support when genetics, external influences and life circumstances get in the way. I hope that takes some of the overwhelmed out of the supplement equation.
If your feeling confused by health concerns or the idea of choosing supplements, it might be time to pop it in the hands of a holistic health professional.
Written by Elissa Roy.
Naturopathic Skin, Digestive and Hormone Specialist
Master of Applied Sciences (Traditional Chinese Medicine) -currently undertaking
Art by Marius Sperlich @mariussperlich