Reprinted with the permission of foodmatters.com/articles
Are you confused when you walk into a health food store? You cautiously walk down the dietary and nutritional supplement aisle and all you see when you arrive is overwhelming shelves filled with brands promising you instant remedies and longevity. So, which one do you choose?
Do you go with the bottle that has some fancy doctor’s name on the label or perhaps the one that has a photo of a family looking blissfully happy? Or do you get so confused, you walk out empty handed?
Well don't you worry, we've taken the guess-work out, so you can navigate through the supplement maze with confidence. But first of all...
We often hear that if you eat well you shouldn’t need to supplement, and in a perfect world, we wouldn't need to. Ideally, we would live stress-free lives, get all the nutrients we need from our food, and never be exposed to toxins! The truth is, however, that we no longer live like our forefathers and whilst many of us live healthy lives, free from disease and illness, it’s not always the case.
Supplementation is becoming an essential health-booster that can help to fill in nutritional gaps and protect your body against the occasional diet slip-up.
Through our journey of creating the films 'Food Matters' and 'Hungry For Change’, we have met with some incredible health practitioners and wellness experts, including Dr. Andrew Saul, Dr. Mark Hyman, Dr. Ian Brighthope, and Charlotte Gerson. And they all agree on one thing - if you're searching for optimal wellness, improving your diet and developing a supplementation plan is essential. Additionally, supplementation was a critical element in helping my father recover from serious chronic fatigue syndrome, depression, and anxiety.
In this article, we demystify the confusion surrounding what nutritional supplements are ideal to have as an all-around program and uncover the Fab Five that can help you achieve vibrant health without breaking the budget.
There are enormous benefits to increasing your dietary intake of vitamins and minerals through supplementation. So, when it comes to making sure you're covering all bases, quality supplements can be your daily backup for ultimate health.
As Dr. Dan Rogers, MD, says, "How can you build a building that you expect to last 100 years if you put poor building materials in? Same thing with your body. How can you expect your body to last for a long and enjoyable lifetime if you don't put the proper building blocks in there?"
Nothing will replace a diet rich in vitamins and minerals from wholesome, natural foods. But life gets busy, stress levels rise, we struggle to find time to source and prepare a variety of nourishing dishes, and as a result, our health and nutrition takes a back seat. Not to mention, our food just isn't the same as what it used to be. The nutrient levels have drastically decreased and toxicity levels are elevated due to modern day large-scale farming practices.
Supplementing helps to make sure we're getting the nutrition we need, each and every day, no matter what life throws at us.
The World Health Organization estimates that nutrition plays a role in 85 percent of disease. Therefore, fueling your body appropriately is one of the most amazing things you can do for your body.
Unfortunately, modern farming practices, major food companies, global supply chains, and heavy use of mass manufacturing has seen our food supply go from local, sustainable, and nutrient-rich, to heavily processed ‘frankenfoods’ and old produce travelling miles and miles, stripped of essential vitamins and minerals by the time they reach our plates.
These are just some of the reasons why our food is not as nutritious as it used to be:
In addition to this, what we do to the soil, the air, and the water around us deeply affects our food.
Our soil is bereft of nutrients, minerals, and trace elements, with fertilizers only replacing the phosphorus, nitrogen, and potassium in the earth. So, where are the rest of the vitamins and minerals (such as calcium, magnesium, manganese, zinc, iron, etc.) that the soil needs?
They are ABSENT.
Fruits and vegetables grown decades ago were much richer in vitamins and minerals than the varieties most of us get today. The main culprit in this disturbing nutritional trend is soil depletion: modern intensive agricultural methods have stripped increasing amounts of nutrients from the soil in which the food we eat grows.
Over the past half century, the vitamins and minerals in our fresh produce have gradually been declining, with researchers discovering drops in protein, calcium, phosphorus, iron, riboflavin (vitamin B2), and vitamin C, of 43 different types of fruits and vegetables.
In fact, the average nutrient levels for calcium, iron, vitamin A, and vitamin C have dropped by 28% according to a Kushi Institute analysis of nutrient data from 1975 to 1997 and yet another study concluded that:
You would have to eat eight oranges today to derive the same amount of Vitamin A as our grandparents would have gotten from one.
We could be eating the healthiest foods each and every day, but there’s still a chance that we’re not getting enough of the nutrients our bodies need. When you combine this with the demands of a busy lifestyle, it’s hard for your body to keep up, let alone feel amazing and look great!
There are countless studies showing that by simply increasing your vitamin and mineral intake, you can:
Boost your immunity
Not to mention, a healthy diet and supplementation routine can also help prevent chronic diseases such as diabetes, arthritis, Alzheimer’s, heart disease, and cancer.
Given this information, it is little wonder that many experts now advise that an all-round supplementation program (alongside a healthy diet) is crucial for optimal health!
Often we associate the word 'synthetic' as meaning something bad. In many cases where food is concerned, this is certainly true! However, the trouble is that our bodies can become so deficient and depleted in key nutrients that nothing short of high dose supplementation will do the trick to make us better again.
While whole food supplements are more 'natural', they don't always deliver the high doses that people with certain illnesses need to heal, replenish, and recover. Mother Nature's vitamins and minerals are absolutely great - as long as your body is in a state of wellness. When your body is in an artificial state of disease, it sometimes needs a megadose of nutrients to heal. And only synthetic vitamins can provide that.
So for general daily wellness, it’s best to stick to whole food vitamin supplements, and leave the synthetic versions for serious health conditions that require specific nutrients at high doses.
Everybody is different, and everyone has varying needs. What your body requires to reach optimal daily health can be totally different to someone else. But there are a few things to keep in mind when selecting which supplements are the perfect fit for you.
As a general guide, we make sure to tick these 6 boxes before trying anything new:
When it comes to choosing your day-to-day supplements, always do your best to find natural food derived options instead of those that are separated from the other life-giving nutrients.
Opt for organic where possible, and make sure to choose a reputable brand. If you’re unsure where to start, we’ve listed some options that we personally use and recommend below! Remember, as stated above, synthetic supplements may be important for high dose chronic conditions, but for day-to-day supplementation, natural wholefood forms are best.
This usually takes a little bit of exploration on your part, but if the supplement is making outrageous claims, or promises you a miracle cure without any research behind those statements, then you should be cautious about whether or not it’s the best choice.
Check the label or the manufacturer’s website for resources including links or references to journal articles to show that you’re getting the best supplement for your health.
If you are supplementing to treat a particular condition, then it may be necessary to take very specific types of supplements and sometimes synthetic supplements, for a shorter duration of time, to achieve high enough doses for the desired effect.
If you are just looking to maintain great health however, natural supplements are your best option so that they can be absorbed, metabolized, and used by the body as if they had been ingested as food.
If you are vegetarian or vegan, check that the supplement also is, even the capsules used for certain supplements can be animal based. So it’s best to mention this to your practitioner or look out for any indications on the packaging and ingredients list that it is free from animal products.
Plus, some vitamins are higher strength than others. And whilst you may assume that the higher the dose the better, your needs should dictate the levels you require. When choosing a lower dosage, you have the flexibility to boost your intake when needed, rather than consistently taking large doses, which in some cases, can cause a toxicity or interfere with other medications (even natural ones!).
As we stated above some supplements, particularly herbals ones or high doses of nutrients, may have different drug-nutrient interactions with certain medication. It may mean that you need to avoid a certain supplement or need to plan what times you take them to avoid any negative interactions. In fact, it’s best to consult your integrative doctor or naturopath for specific doses and recommendations prior to trying the supplement.
The ingredients list is very important and should never be overlooked, it holds the information as to whether or not this product is suitable for you. This is where you can determine if the product is natural or synthetic, animal or plant-based, what form of vitamin or mineral you are getting, the dose per individual tablet, and info on any added ingredients that you might or might not need.
Over the past 8 years, we’ve connected with everyone from GPs, nutritionists, naturopaths, osteopaths, and everything in between, sourcing you the best advice across the globe to support you on your journey. During this time, five supplements continued to come up in conversation, so we’ve nicknamed this key nutritional supplement list the Daily Fab Five!
When considering a supplement program, the first step is choosing a high quality, high dose multivitamin. It's important as it forms a solid foundation of high-level health upon which you can build and tailor the rest of your supplements. A multivitamin helps to fill the gaps of vitamins and minerals that may be missing from what you eat so that you've got your base nutrition covered each day. The multivitamin should include the recommended daily levels of iron, vitamin A, folic acid, vitamin B6, vitamin D, chromium, magnesium, zinc, copper, and selenium.
Vitamin C specialist Dr Ian Brighthope swears by vitamin C to help cure a whole manner of diseases, from flu to cancer. A powerful building block of the immune system, vitamin C has antiviral and antibacterial properties, and is also a dynamic antioxidant, helping to prevent the development of chronic diseases such as cancer and heart disease, as well as support healthy skin and collagen production. It’s incredibly important to consume enough each day as your body doesn’t actually produce it!
Essential fatty acids are incredibly important to keep you, (and especially your brain, skin, and joints) functioning at top performance. The three key fatty acids include ALA, EPA, and DHA.
EPA and DHA come from fish and animal products. They are the most effectively absorbed and ready to support your bodies’ health, whereas ALA, mainly from plant foods, needs to be converted by the body into either EPA or DHA. All three forms can be taken orally via oils or capsules.
Essential fatty acids are necessary for:
The word "probiotic" is a compound of two Greek words: "pro," to signify promotion of and "biotic," which means life. Their very definition is something that affirms life and health.
Ultimately, how we look and feel depends a lot on the nutrients that we eat, digest, and absorb.
Each of us has more than 1,000 different types of bacteria that live in our digestive tracts, helping us to break down food and absorb nutrients, improve our immunity, reduce risk of urinary tract infections, ward off colon cancer, and may even reduce our risk of common allergies!
But when we take antibiotics -- medicine that is designed to kill destructive, illness-causing bacteria -- the drugs can also kill the healthy intestinal flora, causing our health to suffer. Taking such supplements to improve your gut health can help in this case.
A standard Western diet and poor lifestyle choices can also cause the ratio of healthy vs harmful bacteria to be thrown out of balance, resulting in a whole range of conditions.
You can purchase probiotic supplements in many forms, including powders, tablets, and capsules.
Look out for a multi-strain probiotic, the more strains the bigger variety of bacteria and more likely you are going to target your health concern. This is important because different strains of probiotic bacteria have their own roles in the gut and target different parts of the digestive system. We also recommend picking one with a higher dose of bacteria. Essentially once inside of you, the probiotics are designed to grow and multiply but the more you get to begin with can help boost this step along.
Just because we think the ‘daily fab 5’ are great, it doesn’t mean we don’t think there are any other supplements that are important. For some people, there are some supplements that are essential in their daily regime for different health concerns and conditions and this is completely dependent on the individual and their circumstances.
Speaking with your health professional about what supplements are going to benefit you the most is important, rather than just taking a whole lot of different things because everyone else is. They might require you to take blood tests or a hair analysis test to find out if there are any nutrients you are particularly low in.
We commonly get asked about Vitamin D, B12, and Iron supplements, some of the common nutrients that people around the world are struggling to get enough of or are suffering from deficiencies. We highly recommend having a blood test first before taking any of these supplements to determine if there are any nutrients that you are particularly low or high in.
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Stay Ever Well,
Lynne + Renee