There are often many arguments for and against the use of supplements. The truth is that the health food and supplement industry is huge (and largely unregulated), and there are a lot of bogus supplements out there. It’s also worth to note that many supplements have only been developed in recent years, and our ancestors lived healthy lives without the need for these inventions… although, it’s also important to recognise that our ancestors used many natural remedies and procedures that may today be regarded as ‘supplementation’ – with many great benefits to their health.
The human body is a complex organism that’s very good at getting the most out of what we put into it. However, when it comes to vitamins, minerals, essential fats and other key nutrients – it really comes down to what we eat and drink, because the body doesn’t produce these itself and so we require these from external sources (with the exception of some vitamins produced through digestive bacteria).
Poor quality diets (think lots of sugar, bad fats, processed foods and alcohol) can result in deficiencies in many crucial nutrients. As well as this, poorer quality of available foods (mass-produced meats and genetically modified crops as some examples), along with misinformation about which foods and nutrients are necessary for health, may often lead to nutrient deficiencies in even supposedly ‘heathy diets’.
In the UK and western world, being overweight or obese is considered more common than many other areas of the globe (although this trend seems to be spreading rapidly). This leads us to misunderstand the meaning of deficiencies when it comes to food and nutrients. We often suffer from a thought paradigm, where we believe that being nutrient deficient is represented by being underweight, and we often do not consider that you can be deficient in crucial nutrients at any size (underweight, average, overweight or obese).
Our diets are largely calorie dense and nutritionally poor. For this reason, supplementation can play an important role in addressing a diet that has been lacking. Supplementation can support, and assist, dietary and lifestyle changes, but it should never be used as a replacement.
here, it’s useful to acknowledge the definition of supplementation – “the addition of an extra element or amount to something”
When choosing supplements, it is CRUCIAL to consider quality, purity and proven effectiveness of the products.
- Has the company undertaken rigorous scientific research to ensure their supplements use bio-available, active and preferred forms of vitamins?
- Have they used ingredients that ensure maximum absorption, with high therapeutic amounts of the nutrients to ensure efficacy?
SO… WHO DO I USE?
I personally use and recommend NutriAdvanced supplements to my clients. This is because I can be sure of their quality and effectiveness.
I’m frequently asked questions about the use of omega-3, multivitamins, magnesium and probiotics. Throughout the rest of this post, I have tried to summarise some information that may help to broadly answer these questions.
OMEGA-3 FATS (EPA & DHA)
The human brain is made up of 60% fat, and omega-3 fats make up 20% of this content. Docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) is essential for optimal brain health. DHA is used to form cells structurally within the brain and the retina, and it is also a component of the insulation pathway (myelin sheath) that connects neurons in different regions of our brain, making it crucial for speeding up brain signalling. Furthermore, deficiencies in DHA have been suggested to correlate with many health concerns relating to the brain (including ADHD, anxiety and depression, amongst others). For this reason, if you regularly fail to consume 3-5 portions of oily fish (for the cheapest options think SMASH – Salmon, Mackerel, Anchovies, Sardines & Herring), then supplementation with a high-quality source of omega-3 may be warranted.
- Omega-3 fatty acids have been well studied, with EPA and DHA contributing to the normal function of the heart, and DHA supporting normal brain function and vision.
- Many randomised controlled trials are now exploring the therapeutic use of omega-3 supplementation in conditions related to the brain including; depression, dyslexia, ADHD and autism, as well as other areas.
Research has shown that the typical Western diet supplies less than adequate amounts of several vitamins, minerals and antioxidants that are crucial for growth and development. The problem in the western world is that we suffer from this paradigm where we think that, because we are overfed (in terms of calories), we can’t suffer from nutritional deficiencies. This couldn’t be further from the truth, as our processed junk food diets lack many of the basic nutrients that we need to sustain our brains.
In an ideal world, nature’s multivitamin would be a diverse and nutritious diet based on whole foods.
Ways to increase your overall nutrient intake are through eating 7-10 portions of fruits and vegetables per day, as well as introducing diversity to the foods that you eat week by week (aiming to ‘eat the colours of the rainbow’ in vegetables can be a useful strategy). Understandably, this can be a difficult task in our modern 21st-century lives. This is where a high-quality multivitamin could be used to support us to combat any nutrient deficiencies – particularly if our diet has been poor quality for some time. A high-quality multivitamin can also help to bump up our stores as we move toward eating a more nutrient dense diet. I don’t take a multivitamin daily, but some circumstances might suggest a benefit for their use for a period of time.
The following short video is extremely useful to better understand the differences between certain multivitamins and their suggested usage.
Magnesium is required for hundreds of biochemical reactions taking place within your body. It’s also known as nature’s tranquilliser, as it helps to calm inflammation and balance our nervous system.
Magnesium deficiency is extremely common if your diet is high in processed foods and particularly sugar, as these toxic foods deplete your magnesium stores and actually increase your body’s requirement for this mineral. Even a slight magnesium deficient can lead to fatigue, loss of appetite, irritability and poor memory and learning – it is therefore one of the most crucial nutrients for our the optimal functioning of our bodies and brains. Magnesium is also a relaxant, and for this reason I often supplement with magnesium in the evenings to promote rest and sleep.
Magnesium also contributes toward:
- the normal functioning of the nervous system and muscles
- energy-yielding metabolism and to the reduction of tiredness and fatigue
- electrolyte balance
- normal protein synthesis
- the maintenance of normal bones and teeth
Another thing that we need to consider is the actions that we take to promote diversity amongst our gut microbiome, and therefore increased health within our digestive tract. The first things that we can do are to take a high-quality probiotic supplement, as well eating other fermented foods which allow us the opportunity to increase the number of beneficial gut bacteria. A further tip is to increase our intake of foods which are known as ‘prebiotics’. These foods provide a substrate to feed the beneficial bacteria that are already inside our gut, and may also help any of the bacteria obtained foods or probiotics to proliferate (grow).
Important to consider:
Many supermarket-bought supplements carry live bacteria labels, but they cannot guaranteed to contain the specific types of live bacteria bacteria proven to benefit human health. It’s hugely important to use brands which have been scientifically proven as containing beneficial bacteria in a live state and in sufficient quantities to be effective. This means that they start working in your gastrointestinal tract straight away!
I hope that you found the information in this post useful. I acknowledge that supplementation can become a very confusing area of discussion. For that reason, if you have any questions related to specific supplements or ordering supplements, please feel free to contact me through the website or via email (firstname.lastname@example.org).