Do I Really Need to Take Supplements?
As I stand at the counter at my naturopathic clinic ready to tap my credit card (or my parents credit card, god bless them), I get a major pit in the centre of my gut. “Is this really worth it?” is a question I had once asked myself. As a student, I don’t exactly have a whole lot of extra cash lying around, and my parents have a mortgage and retirement to think about.
I get this question quite often, “are supplements really that necessary?” “why are some so cheap and some so pricey?” “don’t our bodies give us those nutrients anyways?” “am I wasting my money?” So today I’d like to address these questions as someone who spends the cost of my school tuition on supplements, annually.
Quite a while back, I was at the gym with my best friend when she made a claim that I often think about. “Our bodies make our own vitamins, and we get those nutrients from our food.” I used to think this too and I can understand where she’s coming from, however I would like to debunk this myth today and prove that statistically she was incorrect.
A while back, way before any of us were alive, our ancestors ate wild-caught meats and fishes, fresh organic vegetables, some organic fruits and some raw dairy products. These foods were unprocessed, didn’t need to be transported or shipped across the world, were eaten right away and contained more than enough nutrients to keep us healthy and thriving, until about 30 years old, the average life-span back then. Unless you live under a rock, you should know that the foods we eat today are not even close to the same make-up of the foods our ancestors ate. In fact, conventionally grown fruits and vegetables actually lose 90% of their nutrients through synthetic growing processes, transportation and display. So when you are eating conventionally grown spinach with the expectation that you’re getting loads of iron, potassium and vitamins, you’re actually only getting about 10% of what you should be getting. Another factor is that the pesticides and synthetics on our food impact our gut health and disturb the absorption of these nutrients in our gut, so from a technical point, you aren’t even actually getting that 10%.
Now, we can change our diets, we can cut out processed foods, we can buy all organic whole foods, but for most of us the damage of GMO’s, synthetics and chemicals has already been done. For me, though I consider myself to eat very clean, I suffer from intestinal permeability, which you do as well if you have an autoimmune disease. I suffer from poor thyroid function, adrenal insufficiency and hormonal imbalances, all factors that cause malabsorption of nutrients in the body. Even the average person who doesn’t suffer from disorder or disease is impacted by nutrient depletions, and if you were to get lab work done on vitamin and mineral levels, I can almost guarantee you are deficient in something. So to touch on my friend’s comment, no our bodies cannot always sufficiently provide us with essential nutrients and our food alone cannot do this job for us either.
Here are my answers to just a few of the questions I have received in regards to supplementation and vitamins.
Why are some supplements so cheap and some so pricey?
Well there’s a number of reasons for this. Some vitamin brands are less potent than others and those ones tend to be cheaper, especially if they are made with fillers and synthetics. I will not be mentioning any specific brands that I dislike, however I will mention that looking at the ingredient lists on your vitamins is key. I’ll break it down for you:
YES ingredients – these fillers are natural and do not take away from the quality of a vitamin
Gelatin (unless you are vegan)
NO ingredients – no supplements should have these ingredients in them
Mono and diglycerides
Ascorbic acid (sometimes)
Any artificial food coloring
Maltodextrin made from GMO corn
Talc or magnesium silicate
Supplements are not meant to be taken forever, so yes you may find yourself spending loads of hard-earned money on these little pills but once you’ve trained your body to absorb and make these nutrients, you will be able to slowly come off of most of them. For example, taking melatonin every night for six to nine months should encourage better sleeping patterns for those who suffer from insomnia or other sleep disruptions. Taking melatonin for a few weeks will not change anything, and taking it for the rest of your life is not necessary. A supplement routine can be quite expensive in the beginning as you learn about your body and its specific needs. Once the gut is healed, your body won't require the same amount or the same dosage, however, and this will make it a little easier to afford. About a year ago, my supplement routine was costing me about 600 dollars every 3 months. It is now around $200 every 6 months. Hopefully this makes you feel better about taking your wallet out every now and then. Remember, your health is an investment in yourself.
Are Supplements really that necessary?
As previously mentioned, yes. Your body needs vitamins and minerals. Eating a clean diet, and living a moderately active lifestyle can lessen your need for many supplements but in today’s day an age, we have to address nutrients depletions and their link to chronic health issues. It’s ironic that I have people say to me, “oh well I don’t get sick”, or “I don’t have a chronic illness,” and while you’re incredibly lucky to be able to say those things, you’re probably not entirely right. Just because you don’t have a diagnosed chronic health problem, it is important to ask yourself, what about recurring infections, bronchitis every winter, chronic bladder or yeast infections, stomach pains, consistent digestive issues, random food intolerances that you have only recently discovered, acid reflux, anxiety, depression, fatigue, brain fog, weight troubles, a cough that never seems to fully go away… do any of these resonate with you? Do you realize that these conditions didn’t occur once upon a time and now it seems that everyone is dealing with at least one of these things. We beat up our bodies each and every day and then we get irritated and annoyed when it doesn’t function up to our standards. So yes, to answer this question, Individualized supplementation is necessary for each and every person.
What Supplements should I take?
Well that depends on your individual physiology. For instance, in the cold winters in Canada, we should all be taking a potent vitamin D3, but if you’re in a warm place with lots of sun exposure it may not always be as necessary. There is a significant link between vitamin D deficiency and autoimmune disease. In my personal research, I believe every single person should be taking vitamin D, or ensuring they are getting adequate sunlight every single day. The vitamins that I recommend are always Vitamin D3, B complex, Magnesium, and Vitamin C. If you have thyroid issues I advocate for Zinc, selenium and L’tyrosine. Personally, I use supplements to support four key areas in my health; Thyroid, Adrenals, Liver and Sleep. You don't need to purchase each vitamin and mineral on their own, there are loads of great thyroid support supplements, liver support, adrenal and stress support and sleep support options on the market. It is all about determining what works best for your body and your overall health. What is important to understand is that there is no "one plan fits all" for supplements as everyone has a different root cause. For example, Iodine is an amazing mineral that helps to rebuild thyroid tissue and can benefit many people with hypothyroidism, but Iodine can actually be very dangerous and trigger autoimmunity in patients with Hashimoto's disease and other autoimmune disorders. Do your research, work with a integrative or functional practitioner, and be sure to monitor symptoms and lab results while taking supplements. Read about contradictions with other medications, and always start at a low dose.
All in all, the point of this post is to help you understand that supplementation is important, finding quality vitamins and minerals that your individual body requires is essential to the success of your health. Proper supplementation can have you thriving and feeling your absolute best.
Remember, everything that has happened in your life has lead you to this moment.
Thank you for reading!
My List Of Supplements
*This is used as a general guideline as to what worked for me personally and is not meant to advise you on what to take as I do not know your individual nutrient requirements.*
- Adrenal Adaptogens (support stress)
- B complex (healthy weight and adrenal function)
- Betaine with Pepsin (aids in digestion, do not use with ulcers and always take with protein rich meals)
- Vitamin D (liquid form)
- Vitamin E (works great with selenium and is a powerful antioxidant)
- Glutamine (repairs the gut lining)
- N-Acetyl Cysteine - (restores liver function and gut function, reduces pathogenic bacteria)
- Omega 3 (reduces inflammation)
-Selenium (be careful with this one, known to reduce TPO antibodies, helps to convert T4 to T3)
- Zinc (thyroid hormone conversion)
- Thyrotrophin PMG (Reduces antibodies, helps repair thyroid tissue)