When Do You Need Supplements? A Physician’s Perspective
What exactly are supplements? They are often micronutrients (vitamins, minerals, fatty acids), or specific substances like flavonoids (think Resveratrol) or herbal compounds such as urtica dioica (Stinging nettle) that are concentrated then put in tablet or capsule form.
Do you need to take supplements?
Yes. What supplements do you need? That depends on your individual health status. Why do you need to take them? Disease prevention, and replenishing diminishing body stores. Why are our body’s nutritional stores being depleted over time? The answer can be found in our history.
Going back in time
I remember growing up in the late 60’s - early 70’s and taking Flintstones chewable vitamins. Back then, we didn’t call them supplements, we just called them vitamins. Milk was fortified with Vitamin D to prevent childhood Rickets resulting from deficiency or impaired metabolism of Vitamin D, calcium and phosphorus (the bone building blocks) resulting in extremely soft bones. Beginning in the 1940s, the need for ‘fortifying’ the food we eat with additional nutrients was recognized and implemented nationally.
Fast forward to the 1990s
Studies posted in the Journal of the American College of Nutrition stated that there had been a general decline in the nutrient levels of several vitamins and minerals, with an increase in fats and carbohydrates (grains and sweeteners) since 1950. Paradoxically, while nutrient density was decreasing, the amount of food that was produced by industrial farms escalated dramatically. The end result? More food with less nutrients.
You are what you eat ... and what you don’t eat
Essentially, the food we eat has become less and less nourishing. Nutrient stores in our body gradually become deficient or depleted. As a result, our metabolism slows down, and we gain weight. Obesity has reached epidemic levels in most of the country. Our body systems don’t have what they need to function properly. For example, if our body doesn’t get enough nutrients to maintain adequate serotonin levels, depression or other mental illness can occur. If we have less Omega-3 fats than Omega-6 fats in our body, we are more prone to inflammatory conditions. Dr. Patrick Donovan, of The University Health Clinic, wrote an excellent article on Inflammation as the cause of disease. Read it here.
Nutrition as therapy
Supplement companies were formed and produced an increasing number of products to bridge the gap between what our food provides and what our bodies need to stay healthy and prevent disease. It has become increasingly common for healthcare providers to prescribe targeted nutritional therapies to treat conditions like anemia, asthma, depression and anxiety, PMS and many others.
Can vitamins prevent cancer?
Studies are showing that the answer is yes. One such example was conducted at Harvard University; long term studies in the Harvard Cohorts initiated in 1980 have confirmed the long term preventive effects of Vitamin D. Breast, colorectal, and prostate cancer all showed a significant decrease in people on higher doses of vitamin D, compared to those who either did not take it or took vitamin D in very low doses.
So many products to choose from!
Which companies have good products? Some companies are better than others, when it comes to product quality and efficacy. Those companies that provide consistent high quality supplements include:
This list is by no means exhaustive, but includes some of the companies that I prescribe most often. Because nutrient deficiencies are so widespread in the populace, I prescribe multivitamin/mineral products to my patients quite often. Omega-3 fatty acids (OFAs) are absolutely essential to to people of all ages, from child to senior citizen. They are vital to the health of all body systems from your skin, to brain cell function to your immune system and beyond!
Would you like to know more about how supplements can help your individual health or do you have questions about these individual companies and their products? Send us an email, and we will do our best to answer them. Our knowledge and experience are available to you as a resource for learning and improving your health.
About the Writer
Dr. Jana Hagen brings more than a decade of knowledge and experience in Naturopathic Medicine and Clinical Laboratory Medicine to her family medicine practice. In addition to naturopathic primary and preventive care, she has additional experience in relapse prevention, neurotransmitter rebalancing and sustainable weight-loss via metabolic enhancement.
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