Dietary supplements: do we really need them?

There are numerous food supplements in the market, but are they really beneficial? In this article, we discuss taking food supplements and separate fact from fiction.
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Supplements is a confusing subject. There are usually two ends of the spectrum when it comes to supplementation. What do supplements do? Can you get enough nutrients from food? Should you take supplements? Can they prevent symptoms and disease? What’s true and what’s not?

Supplements are a big industry in themselves, and so sometimes it can be tricky. Often, you can get overwhelmed when you see someone very influential endorsing a brand or a specific supplement as if you cannot do without it. It’s time to separate fact from fiction.

Should we go for these pills?

One of the common things that I hear from many clients is whether to just get everything you need from food. This depends on many factors such as your present diet, history of symptoms, and present state of body systems.

If your present diet is inflammatory, restrictive, or inadequate, then you might rob your body of nutrients and require supplementation. But in this case, one thing to consider is that you cannot supplement adequately to cover up a bad diet. If you have several symptoms, then it’s possible that your body may not have the resources at present to help itself heal without some added nutrients. If certain systems in your body are working suboptimal, then that might also require some targeted supplementation.

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Should we take supplements for better health?

As I mentioned, you need to consider whether you need added supplements if you have a restrictive diet, if you are struggling with symptoms, and if some system in your body is struggling. But beyond this, you might also need some baseline supplementation to help your body function optimally rather than just adequately. There are a few key aspects to consider.

1. Avoid adding more and more supplements because you read about them on websites, books, or watch influencers talking about a brand they endorse. Without understanding them completely, you could just be adding another load on your liver, as it is your liver that needs to break them down.

2. If you are presently having specific challenges and have not gotten better with your food, don’t be averse to using them therapeutically, but always do so under the guidance of a trained nutritional practitioner.

Recently, I had someone who was struggling with mood swings and anxiety for one year and being averse to nutrients because she thought she could get them from food. In that kind of situation, it is always better to first consider nutrients before running to anti-anxiety medication. Many deficiencies including B12, iron, omega-3 and D3 can mimic the symptoms of anxiety. To refuse vitamins but take something which can have a deeper impact is probably something to be watchful about.

3. If there are systems in your body that are not functioning well, such as having a fatty liver, then you may need something to help improve liver function. But do remember that just reading information and applying it without knowing the repercussions can be problematic. Do consider working with someone who can assess you and create that perfect combination that can work for you.

4.  Also, remember that if you do supplement yourself, you cannot consider it as a form of insurance to then eat what does not serve your body. If your diet is filled with processed foods high in sugars and trans fats, the most expensive supplements cannot offset that damage on systems.

Baseline nutrients

1. A good multivitamin is rare to find. It should not contain folic acid and cyanocobalamin. It should instead contain methyl folate and methylcobalamin. Good multivitamins are made with non-GMO ingredients. They should be listed as free from gluten, dairy, sugar, corn, and soy. This is essential since multivitamins with gluten or soy can be the source of your problem. It’s also ideal if your multivitamin is listed as hypoallergenic. If they contain zinc oxide as a binder, they can block absorption of nutrients.

2. A common supplement that many people take is calcium. Calcium supplements are tricky. They can lead to plaque formation. They can also prevent absorption of iron when taken at the same time. If your calcium supplement is not balanced with magnesium and D3, it can cause deficiency of those. On the other hand, if it contains K2 but you have high platelets then you do not need further k2 for clotting.

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3. When it comes to your immune system, Vitamin C can be the star of the show. Vitamin C protects your white blood cells from the enzymes they release to digest pathogenic microbes. Vitamin C protects you against every bacterium, virus, and pathogen. When heading for a viral, forget the antibiotics and reach for Vitamin C.

4. Vitamin D is another supplement that can cause problems for many people who have liver issues. Taking a high dose of 60000 IU every week, which is the common approach, can cause sleep issues as it is a fat-soluble supplement, which can accumulate in the liver. High doses are also not absorbed as well by many. Imagine taking your entire week’s thyroid medication on one single day of the week!

I would conclude by saying supplements are a complex subject. There is a specific magical area where your body’s requirements, assessment of challenges, and nutrients required to come together beautifully. If you can work with your nutritionist on this, that is ideal. If you want to consider baseline supplements for yourself, always introduce one at a time and be mindful of reactions and shifts.

Edited by Megha Reddy

(Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of YourStory.)