One question that I’m asked often is do we really need supplements? Can’t we get all of our nutrition from real food? It’s an important question to address so let’s dive in and explore the importance of supplements in modern life.
I use the Metabolic Typing system to identify the right foods to eat and what ones to restrict. Once we know your Metabolic Type we then have a clearer idea of what nutrients your body needs to work at its best. We then go on to test, using saliva, urine, stool, hair and blood, the different systems of the body for your current level of imbalances and dysfunctions that lead to those nutrient deficiencies.
It’s a bit like finding out to get fit you should enter a marathon and that running could be good for you. However, at the moment you’re too stiff, lack good running technique, and your legs are not strong enough. We also know that you should train for 12 months before running the marathon as you have never ran before and not enter one in 12 weeks. From the right fitness tests we can piece all that together, what type of training sessions, when to do them, how far to run or in fact walk before you can run. With food and supplementation its the exact same.
This way of thinking helps us design a truly personalised answer to whether supplements are a waste of money for you and if you should take them what has caused that need for which supplements. We can figure out what is going on inside your body and what the extra support needs to be, to speed up your recovery, strengthen the weaknesses and improve how efficient your body works. Then we know if its buy 1 or 2 tubs of what kind of vitamins and the right type of probiotics first before adding specific types of vitamin B12, hormone supplements or strong herbs or 1 or 2 tubs is all you need to provide the support you need right now. So its a food first, supplements second, 1-2 punch back to balance.
Still not everyone is a fan of supplements and some are the opposite they live on them in almost the absence of food. I typically see three types of clients when it comes to supplements;
- Live in Holland & Barrett and by every two for one offer going, totally sucked into the “this for that” approach, got a sore knee, take that, got a headache, take this.
- Don’t believe in supplements, they don’t work, expensive pee and actually can do you harm, “everyone knows you can get all you need from food”.
- Then a middle ground those that can see supplements have a place but just don’t know what works for them, how much to take, for how long, what order (is there even an order or pop them all at once), what should happen, what are the effects and the cost is justified.
Taking supplements to mask a poor diet, excess alcohol and hideous lifestyle really is a waste of money. In contrast if you have been ill or have significant symptoms that are chronic and gone on for several years its unlikely that food will be enough of a help fast enough to turn things around.
Why we need supplements
Here are my top 14 reasons supplementation is actually a wise move to support your food, exercise and lifestyle choices:
1) Food quality
Sourcing local, foods in season as well as organic or free range, real and whole foods will help maximise the amount of nutrition you can obtain from your food. The quality of the soil, then how your food is stored, processed or preserved all effect how good your food really is for you. Sometimes we can just blindly assume, our lettuce and chicken are packed full of what we need without factoring in the many reasons that is not always the case. Some studies show that there can be a 2000% difference in the amount of nutrients between organic and inorganic foods.
Cooking food from scratch would be great as well to help hold on to the nutrients that are in your food. However not everyone all of the time has the time to eat the right food, in the right amounts, prepared the most healthful way never mind eaten at the right time. Travel or having to eat on the hop between meetings or shooting off to pick up the kids all create a squeeze on choice and the chance to properly digest your food. Those with health challenges, and digestive and liver, detoxification symptoms have it harder to get the nutrients they need from food alone. Athletes, those who exercise intensely and also high stress lifestyles all push up the need for nutrition. Add in watching your weight and you then start to reduce food intake which means obviously less nutrients. Cutting calories and increasing nutrition is a hard one in the absence of a supplement supported diet. Whatever the exact reasons you don’t manage to load your body with nutrition each day I hope when you think it through, considering the points above, you will better appreciate including supplements as part of your daily health building regime to give you the best chance to progress and get on top of your symptoms, better manage health challenges and optimise performance whether thats work or sports.
2) Digestion and assimilation
Those with digestive infections, food sensitivities or toxicity issues are more likely to have specific nutrient deficiencies not easy to alter by food alone. These challenges on the digestive system lead to inflammation and alter how efficient the body is at digesting and assimilating or absorbing the food. In turn you can be left constantly not absorbing the full benefit from each meal. Each food has a variety of nutrients, some of your favourite foods can be high in the nutrients you already have plenty of a low need for but low in the nutrients you are deficient in. Picking and choosing foods to reverse imbalances and deficiencies is possible but not easy, supplements help you choose the nutrients you need and consume the right dose to make amends, reducing the guesswork and getting the job done easier. Life is complicated enough having the key nutrients you are missing and optimise how your body works just sitting there each day and all you have to do is remember to pop them down your throat or add them to your soup or smoothie does help reduce as well as results.
3) Health challenges
If your health is not optimum, the chances are that there’s some deficiency in your capacity to digest and assimilate your food. So, if your food is already lacking in nutrients, and if the food you eat is only partially digested, and if what you digest is only partially assimilated, then you’d need to eat an awful lot of food to meet your optimum nutritional requirements, particularly if you’re already suffering from faulty digestion and assimilation.
4) Genetic requirements
As well as internal issues that affect digestion and assimilation, where it goes in what amounts within your body, there are genetic requirements for nutrients that can vary 2, 5 or 10 fold. Eating more dark green leafy veg is a start but improving detoxification with a concentrated dose of nutrients with an inbuilt lack of efficiency allows your body to bypass this challenge and operate with less need to excessively eat dark green leafy veg.
5) Busy lifestyle
A busy, on-the-go lifestyle makes it almost impossible to eat organic foods at all of your meals on a daily basis. Factors such as time away from home, eating on the go, and eating while traveling, all sabotage your efforts at regular, healthy eating.
6) Help meet daily requirements
If you have a poor appetite, nutritional supplements can provide an excellent means of making sure that you get enough nutrients on a regular basis, without having to eat a large amount of food.
7) Conserve your energy
A major factor in building health is the creation and conservation of energy. The digestion of food, particularly if you consider the large amounts that may be needed to make up for a deficiency, requires far more energy than the digestion of a few nutritional supplements.
8) Overcome food aversions
Supplements are an ideal way for you to get certain necessary nutrients from foods which you might find objectionable in taste, such as liver or bee pollen.
9) Stimulate, substitute, & support
Nutritional supplements work to stimulate weak areas, as well as to support rebuilding processes by supplying required raw materials. In addition, supplements can substitute for some function in the body that is currently inefficient. For example, hydrochloric acid supplementation can be used if your natural hydrochloric acid secretion is insufficient — a very critical issue. Without sufficient hydrochloric acid, it is very difficult for your body to digest and assimilate valuable nutrients, especially minerals.
10) Avoid reactive foods
If you have digestive weaknesses or allergic reactions to foods, nutritional supplements can allow you to readily and easily acquire nutrients which you may otherwise have considerable difficulty in getting. For instance, if you require certain amino acids available in red meat but you’ve lost the ability to efficiently digest and assimilate meat, you could acquire the amino acids in supplement form.
11) Remove environmental toxins
Compared to the pure and pristine world of less than a century ago, our modern environment itself poses a challenge to your health. Industrial air pollution, over 10,000 man-made chemicals that have been added to our food supply for which our bodies have no use and which are either toxic or otherwise disruptive to metabolism, sick-building syndrome, holes in the ozone layer, chemically-treated drinking water, electro-magnetic pollution from appliances, mobile phones, computer screens, etc., chemical exposures such as cosmetics and plastics in the workplace and at home, and high stress lifestyles, all place an increased demand for nutrients on your metabolism that may only be met through nutritional supplementation.
12) Adjust biochemical processes
Supplements, by providing concentrated forms of single nutrients, can provide delicate, fine-tuning adjustments to your body’s foundational control systems, for example the nervous system or energy systems.
13) Zero in on metabolic processes
The various nutrients in specific formulations can be attached to different “carriers” which can target them to specific sites and processes in the body where they are needed.
14) Maximise your rate of progress
Everyone wants to be healthy and everyone wants the most out of their time on earth. Under the right circumstances, one might be able to reverse degenerative disease and achieve optimum health on food alone. But in most cases, this is not likely. In this way, supplements not only assure the achievement of your goal, but they also maximise the rate at which you’ll achieve it because they can provide for optimal nutritional intake on a daily basis.
That’s 14 different reasons supplements are crucial to your journey to build the best version of you. Life would be simpler and of course less expensive if we didn’t need this extra help in the form of supplements. Food first is the foundation but to speed the process up and plug those gaps there absolutely is an essential role for supplementation.
I quite often find there are barriers with clients to truly getting healthy and coming to terms with the fact that their food isn’t good enough. The majority of us also struggle to do a good enough job with getting the right food consistently anyway, and the more out of balance and symptomatic the easier their life will become if they can come to terms with the realisation that supplements are actually a pillar, good health is built on and then maintained.
The above points should help highlight why supplements are essential to your health and form a key part of any successful nutritional therapy program.