Do I need food supplements?
I consider quality food supplements part of a healthy lifestyle. I have used one brand for over 20 years because it has helped me to manage my disease, Multiple Sclerosis. Are you wondering if supplementation right for you? I feel that it depends on several things; diet, increased need for certain nutrients, genetic predisposition and disease.
According to the USDA’s 2015 – 2020 dietary guidelines Americans are not getting adequate amounts of calcium, magnesium, and vitamins A, D, E and C. Also, recent studies find that Americans are among those that have the lowest blood levels of omega-3s in the world. This is a concern because adequate intake of omega-3s can be beneficial in reducing the risk of heart disease. I look at it this way. If I spend money each month on health insurance, I feel its just as important to spend money each month on supplements. What supplements?
1) a good multi-vitamin
2) a quality calcium supplement with magnesium that has been proven in studies to get into the bloodstream and into the bones
3) vitamin D
4) Omega-3s, DHA and EPA
Another thing to keep in mind is whether you are on a diet that eliminates a whole food group. This will eventually lead to nutritional deficiencies which down the road sets the stage for disease. For example, if you are on a vegan diet you increase your risk of deficiency for vitamin B12, vitamin D, calcium, iron, zinc and omega-3 fatty acids. If you are following a Paleo diet recent studies report risk of calcium, magnesium, iodine, thiamin, riboflavin, folate and vitamin D deficiency. The keto diet is even more restrictive than vegan or Paleo and is most likely creating added deficiencies. In this country we are either eating an unhealthy standard American diet or we are on and off a diet – both of which create deficiencies. A food supplement is just a wise choice if we want to support our body and give it what it needs to function optimally.
When does increased need for certain nutrients come into play? During pregnancy and while breast feeding which is not a surprise but what about seniors and those people taking medications? Seniors have increased needs for protein, calcium, vitamin D and vitamin B12. Many medications increase your need to B vitamins, vitamin D, and calcium. In addition, if you consume alcohol on a regular basis you increase your need for B vitamins. What about the toxic environment we live in today? I feel it’s a safe bet that this also increases our nutritional needs.
Human genetics is extremely complex. We can have gene variations sometimes referred to as mutations. These mutations can increase our risk of developing certain diseases and they also increase our needs for certain nutrients. This sounds simple – match this mutation with this nutrient or lifestyle change. It would be nice if that were true. But the fact is this mutated gene interacts with many other genes and the make up of these other genes is different for every one of us. According to a recent study by D.G. MacArthur and others published in Science 2012  each of us has at least 1,000 unique mutations. The good news is that we can modify our genes based upon our diet, lifestyle and environment and this is the new science called epigenetics. Intricately tied to our genetics is our microbiome. Each of us has about 1,000 distinct species of bacteria in our intestines that influence how our immune system functions, controls inflammation and autoimmune diseases, affect brain function and mood, and our metabolism and weight. Since we all have gene mutations it would make sense to supplement our diet in order to positively influence gene expression.
Have you been diagnosed with a chronic disease? This is the last and I feel strongest reason to take food supplements. When your body is in this stress state it needs optimal nutrition and you just can’t get everything you need consistently each day from your diet. I know because I’ve tried. I feel that this is non-negotiable if you have a disease. So, then the only question is what brand and what nutrients do you specifically need? That’s where I can help you. I will work with you to first change your diet to be plant-based, as much as possible, while also making sure you get the right amount of protein. After that supplements would be the next step along with a movement-based program that includes yoga.
“We are all dealt a hand of cards. We can’t exchange the hand. But how we play our hand will determine our life outcome.” ~~Dr. Steve Chaney
 D.G MacArthur et al, Science, 335;823-828, 2012