Following are some important points about supplementation with vitamins, minerals and herbs.
Firstly, a large part of my degree was focused around the prescription of specific and therapeutically dosed supplements for relevant conditions and situations. I do feel strongly that the prescription of high quality and appropriately dosed nutritional medicine supplements can bring someone’s health to a whole new level and furthermore, that this is important in chronic or acute situations. Hence I do have a relatively large dispensary in my clinic.
I feel that those who really understand nutritional biochemistry –
that we really are the sum of the nutrients we take in – may have some understanding of how powerful the right supplement prescriptions can be.
However, there are some key considerations to keep in mind…
Quality: consider the quality of your supplementation. Look for fillers, if the supplement is vegan or vegetarian friendly it is likely to have less ‘crap’ in it. Some cheap supplements have been featured in the media as they may be up to 50% filers. On this note, I generally do not recommend purchasing supplements in supermarkets…. for the most part. Supplementation given on script from a chemist, nutritionist, naturopath or some other health professional will generally be of the highest quality and only available with a valid prescription.
Dosage: do you understand how much you are taking? Do you know what the therapeutic dosage is? Are you taking enough to have benefits? Or are you taking too much? This can be a complex question and its best to consult a practitioner if you truly aren’t confident with this.
Form: many supplements are available in different ‘forms.’ Oxides, citrates, picolinates, chelates, activated, methylated etc. All of these will absorb at different rates, having different bio availability in the body. In general, cheaper supplements often contain forms that the body can not absorb, meaning they are merely expensive urine.
Prescription drugs: Are you also taking pharmaceutical medication? Then don’t supplement unless you know its safe alongside the drugs you are taking! Speak to your GP. Some supplements can be easily purchased such as St John’s Wort and yet they interact and contraindicate with a whole heap of drugs….
Day to day nutrition and lifestyle: are you also paying attention to the food you are putting into your mouth, moving your body and engaging in appropriate self care to minimize stress as much as possible? These are the foundations of health. Don’t throw a pile of pills on top of a lifestyle that consists of take-away foods and sedentary living. And eating well does not mean you necessarily have to cook everything yourself; good nutrition is accessible to incredibly time poor people too. It’s your choice.
Many new clients that I see are taking between 5-15 supplements at a time that they are ‘self prescribing’ and purchasing at random from health food shops and supermarkets. As we work through this list I ask the inevitable questions including ‘why exactly are you taking this?’ and ‘do you know if you are getting any therapeutic benefit from this’ and ‘how long are you planning on taking this for?’ Generally, the client responds with ‘well I just heard that this was good for you so I started taking it.’
I think supplementation is an incredibly important consideration for many people, including:
-Athletes: due to the rapid turnover of B vitamins, zinc, magnesium in particular as they churn over energy cycles at a much higher rate than those that aren’t athletic
-Those experiencing mental health complications (under guidance so as not to interfere with any medication)
-Those with gut issues (for repairing the gut lining and encouraging healthy gut flora restoration)
-For those in high demand ‘jobs’ which might include being the sole carer to young children or paid work that demands many hours and brain power (to assist with stress management and compensate for an increased need for nutrition)
-Pregnant and lactating women and both women and men preconception
-Those recovering from weight loss surgery
There are other situations too. But these are just some examples.
Bottom line. Have a plan. Have an understanding. Be safe.