I’ve come full circle when it comes to supplements in terms of my use/abuse of them, my temporary intermediate view of them being unnecessary and simply another money making ploy of the pharmaceutical industry, to making use of those that meet my additional requirements in order to give my nutritional intake a bit of a boost.
While suffering from anorexia I depended on supplements, seeing them as an alternative to eating properly and took everything that was offered to me from Multi Vitamins, to B Vitamins to Calcium and Vitamin D supplements, the latter of which was forced upon; little did I know that it was unlikely to create any gains for me in the bone density department at the time, I lived in blissful ignorance of course fuelled by the messages from the medical industry I was constantly bombarded with.
Prior to taking my place on my nutritional therapy course I had become opposed to taking any kind of supplements, seeing my diet as complete, well rounded and far from lacking in any department.
What I’ve learnt since is that it is extremely difficult to get the optimum levels of all the nutrients your body needs merely from food for a number of reasons…
- The vitamin and mineral content of fresh food varies considerably depending on how fresh it actually is and the soil it was grown in.
- Some nutrients aren’t found in the larger amounts our body needs in food sources – namely Vitamin D.
- As we age our bodies find it more difficult to absorb nutrients from our food, notably Vitamin B12.
- Many people eat a diet made of up a large portion of nutrient-less food (2/3’s of the average calorie intake) – refined, processed food that is comparable to cardboard on a nutrient level aside from the legal fortification requirements – bread, flour and cereal that has been refined must be fortified with Vitamins B1, Vitamin B3and Iron in the EU.
No matter you fortify them with they’re never going to be a healthy whole food! Though labelled wholegrain this means that they merely need to contain more wholegrain than refined but up to 49% of the product can be made up of refined grains. The wholegrain proportion can be made up of grains that have been demolished and reconstructed with the correct ratios of grain parts (germ and bran). Sugar laden cereals are just one of the products who make use of the “wholegrain” label, claiming to be heart healthy when in fact they’re excessive intake contributes to heart disease, diabetes and many other affluent diseases and illnesses.
Most people are familiar with RDAs (Recommended Daily Allowances) and make some effort to stick to the guidelines of the standard food pyramid. In reality these daily allowances are the minimum levels which our body needs to prevent deficiency diseases. In order to actually perform optimally, ODAs (Optimum Daily Allowances) are a more realistic, high levels of nutrient intakes to aspire to!
There is an incredible amount of research in to the power of certain nutrients to not only prevent but fight disease. The levels being found to be of use are far beyond levels we could consume from food sources alone.
Research conducted in the 90s in Alabama which studied over 13,500 people living in six regions in the US over 15 years, found that optimal health was achieved often with nutrient intakes 10 times higher than RDA levels.
People have to accept feeling just ok. We put certain aches, pains and symptoms down to old age, look for a medicinal cure or merely dismiss them and get on with it.
I’ve come to realise that supplements are just as the name suggests, designed to supplement one’s diet depending on your individual needs, circumstances and health.
On a practical day to day level, I relatively recently made use of the power of Vitamin C to help me fight off a cold. The RDA is a mere 60mg…in order to fight the common cold I took 1000mg three times a day for two days straight. It gave my immune system a boost and rather than giving in and taking antibiotics I fought it off naturally and felt a couple of days later.
To put it in perspective, 60mg is what you might find in one orange…so you’re looking at about 22 oranges to get what you can get from a good supplement offering 1000mg. As much as I’d like to solely depend on food, sometimes supplements are just necessary! The protective role of Vitamin C against various cancers, cardiovascular disease and as mentioned the common cold only becomes significant with doses above 1,000mg a day. As a result I now continue to supplement with this amount on a daily basis.
Here’s a little summary table which depicts RDAs, ODAs, and the shortfall!
Everyone has a unique set of needs and the supplements you choose to take to achieve your own levels of optimum nutrition will depend on your own diet, health, age, lifestyle and even sex among other various variables.
At the moment I’m taking the following….
- Vitamin C – 1000mg a day
- I’m not I notice any difference on a day to day basis, though my ability to fight infection improved when I was ill and taking it three times a day. I’m continuing to take it for the long term health benefits.
- Zinc – 20mg a day (minerals have to be taken with greater caution as you can take to much; they are need in much smaller amounts than vitamins)
- Taking Zinc has had a huge impact on my skin and hair; the latter is softer and growing a hell of lot faster and my skin is less prone to eruptions and when I do encounter a spot it heels in about a tenth of the time it would have prior to taking extra zinc in supplement form.
- Vitamin D – 5,000IUs/125mcg (the RDA is a mere 5mcg – 10mcg or 400IUs – 800IUs!)
- I suffer from psoriasis in small bouts but the small patches that I had been unable to shift have now disappeared!
- I also find my mood has improved. I wouldn’t have considered myself moody, but at times a little over anxious. I feel more relaxed in myself since having started supplementing with the high dose Vitamin D. The weather most definitely would have affected my mood considerably and it doesn’t at all now!
I also utilise a number of particularly nutrient rich foods – my natural supplements. Check out my top power foods and ingredients post I posted recently!
What supplements if any do you take and why?
Note: The reason I stopped taking calcium supplements was due to the fact that osteoporosis isn’t a calcium deficiency disease; it results due to excessive calcium loss which can be caused by and excessive intake of acidic foods (dairy and meat), and a lack of nutrients required to utilise calcium efficiently – namely magnesium and vitamin D. There has also been recent research which suggests a strong link between the use of calcium supplements and heart disease due to excessive build up in the arteries.