What is the role of supplements in Nutrition Therapy? This is a question I get asked all the time. Along with things like, “Should I take calcium daily?”, “Are fish oils really important?”, etc. Unfortunately the research can be confusing for the same reason that dieting can be confusing . . . there are no hard and fast rules that will apply to everyone.
We are each individuals with different eating habits, different genetics, different stresses, different lifestyles, etc. What works for one person, may not work for another, and something entirely different will work for your neighbor. And it’s difficult for researchers to take this bio-individuality into account.
That’s why I recommend people work with someone who will be able to help them identify if they need supplements and what types of supplements they may need. You can be eating the healthiest, organic food but if you’re not digesting it or it’s not properly prepared, then you have expensive wasted nutrients coming out the other end.
I have met a few people that usually were able to get all their nutrients from whole foods. But these people also farmed their own food, raised their own meats, minimized their stress levels, physically worked their farms daily, ate tons of vegetables – much of it raw, never ate anything processed . . . a life that was available to most people 100 years ago, but now, few choose.
It’s harder, now, for most people to get all their nutrients because of dieting, skipping meals, not eating enough vegetables, eating out, and generally being too busy to eat right at every meal. Added to that, the vitamin and mineral content of our soil continues to decrease.
Because of all of this, testing for supplement needs is something that I have every client do. You might not need to take a pill, but you might need to add more beets into your meal plan to help cleanse your liver. Or you might need apple cider vinegar to help the digestive system. If you’re eating a lot of “fortified” foods then you have to consider the amounts of those nutrients. But there’s no one-size-fits-all supplement plan.
The next question is what are your goals and health history? If you’re taking birth control pills, you may need B6. If you’re a vegetarian, you might need B12, iron or zinc. If you live in northern states, use sunblock, or don’t see the sun at all, you might need D. If you’re pregnant or trying to get pregnant, you probably need more fatty acids and folate. If you’re training for athletic events you may need an amino acid boost.
You see the problem with “Should I take a multi-vitamin?” . . . Answer: Maybe. Few people take the time to plan their meals in a way to ensure they are meeting the daily requirements for nutrients. Over time any deficiencies will take a toll on your well-being. So, supplements may bridge the gap. Supplementation is a balancing act between where you are right now and where you are going – tipped my a constantly changing stress level.