Monday, November 04, 2013

23 Reasons WHY We Take Supplements

In light of Natural Health Product Week (Nov. 4th – 10th) we have put together "23 Reasons WHY We Take Supplements”. We, is a pretty broad term, but in this case not only does it represent the office of Nationalnutrition.ca we also believe it represents you, yes YOU! Let’s face it, between that busy schedule of yours and this changing World, you need a little help getting the nutrients you need – why else would you be taking supplements? 


Did any of these reasons stir your mental pot? Comment, share and tell us about it! 

23. (Not so healthy) lifestyle habits
Poor dietary habits and high stress are not the only lifestyle factors that can lead to nutrient deficiencies and less than optimal health; physical inactivity, tobacco use, and excessive alcohol consumption, among other poor lifestyle choices can be equally detrimental. The sad truth is these factors above are the top predictors of cardiovascular disease, the number one cause of death globally. How do we avoid this fate? We stop the habitual behaviour that is bringing us down (or in the case of inactivity, we start it!), and in the meantime, we supplement - extra antioxidants, B vitamins, and other nutrients based on individual need.

22. Public health 
Let’s talk cold and flu for a minute. Best advice for avoiding the spread of bacteria and virus is to stay in and avoid contact with others. This means no work, no school, no social outings and essentially no life. However, with our busy schedules this is a difficult request and getting back into the swing of things as quickly as possible is a necessity. Many believe that a cold, in particular, simply needs to run its course. For the most part, this isn’t wrong, but there are a number of things you can do to speed things up and get you back on your feet a little faster. Supplements like Elderberry have potent anti-viral activity and can help to reduce severity and duration of symptoms.

21. Longer Life Expectancy
Life expectancy in the early 1900’s was about 50 years of age. As of 2010, Canadians were living, on average, to be approx. 81 years of age. What does this have to do with supplements? Well, we have to think about functions that start to decline and/or lose efficiency as we age, digestion being one of the big ones. As we start to age, our digestive processes (enzyme production and release, motility, etc) start to slow down. Generally speaking, there is also a decline in physical activity and a decreased need for calories that does not necessarily coincide with a decreased need for nutrients. Take this into consideration AND a generally speaking (nutritionally) poor diet, as we start to eat what’s easy as opposed to what’s healthy. All this adds up to a significant loss of nutrients, perhaps at a time when the body needs them most. Supplementing with a high quality multi vitamin, a probiotic, a fish oil and CoQ10 may not keep you living longer (or will it?), but it can go a long way to keep you living a more quality, healthy life in old age. 

20. Environmental toxins
Did you know that more than 7 billion pounds of over 650 different chemicals have been released into our water and air? See the US Environmental Protection Agency report published in 2002. Many of these chemicals did not even exist a few decades ago and we have no idea what the repercussions of these environmental toxins will be. Reducing our exposure is difficult (some of these are literally in the air we breath!).  We can start by drinking filtered water, as well as attempting to detoxify these chemicals from our body through supplementation – increased vitamin C, NAC, selenium, milk thistle, and more!


19. Weight loss programs
It’s impossible to read a health magazine these days and not be bombarded with news of the latest and greatest WEIGHT LOSS solution. Weight loss programs, diets and pills are only increasing in popularity. Regardless of the motivation, what you dieters out there need to know is that taking the weight off, often requires increased intake of nutrients, including protein. Cutting calories can and will lead to nutrient deficiencies if you don’t do it safely.


18. Endocrine Disruptors [in our food and in our home]
Do you buy/eat canned foods? Eat animal products? Drink unfiltered water? Let your children play with plastic toys? If you’ve said yes to any of these questions, you may be exposing yourself and your family to chemicals known as Endocrine disruptors. The Endocrine system is the hormonal system of the body – and anything that disrupts it, leads to hormonal imbalance; estrogen, testosterone, cortisol, insulin and thyroid hormone, to name a few. Imbalances in these areas can affect metabolism and weight, calcium balance in the body, mood, sleep patterns, blood sugar, and SO MUCH MORE. These chemicals are thought to be responsible for precocious (early) puberty in young girls, hormone related cancers, infertility, and more. Check out the Environmental Working Group’s dirty dozen Endocrine Disruptors. How can supplements help? Again, they can help to detoxify the body of these chemicals, along with supporting liver function, and regular elimination/healthy bowel function. 



Friday's 


17. Poor Diet
This can’t really come as a shock to anyone and barely needs any explanation at all. If you are someone who frequents the fast food drive thru, and can’t seem to break free from refined carbohydrates (not a whole grain fan?) and sugar, chances are you are not getting the nutrients you need from your diet. There is no doubt that some dietary changes are in order, but if you aren’t ready yet… try getting your nutrients in supplement form! A good multi, a greens powder and some fish oil could go a long way!

16. Unique Stages of Life
Nutritional need varies based on gender, activity level, and even family history, but nothing dictates nutritional need to the degree that our age does. From infancy to our 60’s and beyond, we need more and less of specific nutrients throughout different periods in our life. Toddlers tend to be picky eaters, and as such, ingesting a good quality multivitamin can help to bump up necessary nutrients. Find one with DHA, for the support of cognitive development. Post-menopausal women need to think about calcium intake, as declining estrogen and progesterone levels will impact the balance between bone loss (resorption) and formation. To find out more about your specific needs to fit your stages of life, see you local naturopath for more information. 


15. Stress
If you’ve done your fair share of reading about stress, you’ve probably heard about something called the fight or flight response. When we are dealing with a perceived stressor, our body goes into sympathetic mode. The sympathetic nervous system is responsible for the processes necessary for immediate action against whatever is causing us stress (think about a caveman coming across a saber tooth tiger while hunting). It relaxes the bronchi allowing for a deeper breath, accelerates the heart, and stimulates the release of glucose for instant energy. At the same time, it shuts down what are considered unnecessary functions during acute stress, inhibiting things like salivation and digestion. The parasympathetic nervous system, on the other hand, has the exact opposite effects, otherwise know as the rest and digest. In a relaxed state the body focuses on digestion and elimination. If we are in a constant state of stress, we are not meant to be eating – and as such we are not able to digest and absorb the nutrients in our food (have you ever noticed that eating on the go – even healthy food – causes you bloating, or heart burn?). Aside from deep breathing, yoga, meditation and other lifestyles interventions, supplementation can help to calm chronically high stress levels, support digestion (through the use of digestive enzymes) and replace lost nutrients until these issues are resolved.


Thursday's 

14. You don’t have time to cook!
We can all relate to a lack of time! The truth is that with work, family, daily chores, and sleep, things like hobbies, exercise, and ‘eating healthy’ (which are great ideas in theory!) become very difficult to fit in. To a certain extent (and you may not like this…) we simply have to MAKE TIME FOR OUR HEALTH. It has to be a priority! Putting your health (at least close) to the top of the list will prove to be the best investment you have ever made! Keep in mind, ‘healthy’ also means a manageable stress load. Maybe you can’t eat a 100% organic, vegan or raw diet all of the time and that’s ok. Find a balance so you can keep up with the purchasing, planning and cooking of your healthy diet, while not being stressed out by it! If you have a bad day, and they will happen, supplement with a greens powder, to bump up veggie intake!
13. Pregnancy
During pregnancy, our body has increased nutritional needs (you are growing another human being inside of you, after all!). In the 2nd and 3rd trimester, caloric intake, in general, should typically increase by about 300 calories. Protein also needs to be increased and quite significantly, by about 60 mg per day. Calcium, folate and iron are other micronutrients that we have a higher need for while pregnant. You can get these nutrients through food, or even simpler by taking a well-designed prenatal vitamin with extra folic acid and calcium. If you are diagnosed with iron deficiency (common during pregnancy), taking additional iron in the form of a non-constipating liquid or a capsule supplement is an easy fix.

12. Unawareness 
It would be nice if broccoli came with a label; High in vitamins A and K, calcium, folate, and potassium, but then we’d also need to know why these nutrients were important… so, better yet, carrots could have a label on them that reads “Carrots are good for the eyes, keeping the retina healthy.” Sadly, fruits and vegetables are not labeled as such meaning some of us may simply not know what we need to be eating! Since we are not all vegans, it’s not just the vegetable aisle that we may need help with. The fact is, all the information we’re getting today makes it very hard to know what a healthy diet is. Supplementing in the areas where you are unclear or unsure of can help! 

11. Vegan/Vegetarian
Vegan and vegetarian diets are not unhealthy by any stretch of the imagination. That being said, they do require a little extra time and effort to ensure that certain nutrients, such as B12, iron and calcium, along with protein intake in general, all of which we get primarily from animal based products, are meeting required levels. Beans and lentils need to become a staple in the diet, as does soy (and fermented soy products), as well as a consistent and wide variety of vegetables (its easy to get in a rut and cook the same things over and over!). Including a combination vegan protein powder, or taking the above nutrients in supplement form, may help to bump up specific nutrients when needed.

                                                                             Wednesday's

10. Cooking: Generally speaking, most people are aware that cooking diminishes the nutrient content of our vegetables. And unless you have joined the raw food revolution, chances are most of the food you are consuming is cooked, therefore not receiving all the nutrients within those foods. Supplementation can make up for certain nutrients that are lost. Vitamin C is one of the nutrients most significantly depleted by cooking vegetables. Sulforaphane, researched for its ability to fight against H. pylori bacteria, as well as having the potential to block proliferation of precancerous cells, is all but lost when broccoli is cooked. Cooking also drastically diminishes the polyphenol content of carrots. Polyphenols may play a significant role in the prevention of a number of degenerative diseases; including cardiovascular diseases and cancer, due to their ability to fight oxidative stress (antioxidant ability). So to make sure you save some nutrients for you try lightly steaming, or even better, lightly boiling vegetables – these are the healthiest options. Grilling and deep frying are by far the most detrimental to our health. Deep frying destroys any antioxidant potential that a veggie has, and grilling often leads to charring/blackening, which forms Polycyclic Aromatic Hydrocarbons (PAHs), a probable human carcinogen. 


9. Therapeutic dosages can’t be found in food: Curcumin is an excellent example of the profound difference between the levels of a medicinal extract we find in food, versus consuming these extracts in supplement form. Curcumin is an extract of the spice Turmeric, used for thousands of years in Indian cooking and Ayurvedic medicine. The best studied, and certainly the most medicinal curcuminoid compound in Turmeric is curcumin. Curcumin is an effective anti-inflammatory, potent antioxidant, anti-cancer, liver support, and so much more. Curcumin makes up 2-9% of powdered tumeric and therapeutic levels of curcumin range from 1-3 g/day. Simply put, you’d turn yellow before you were able to consume enough turmeric to reach therapeutic levels of curcumin. In cases such as these, supplements - many of which are standardized and formulated for superior bioavailability – are a safe, easy, and effective alternative.


8. Prescription Medications: If you are taking one, or a handful of different prescription medications, you need to be aware of the nutrient deficiencies that these medications are causing, all of which can lead to some serious side effects of their own if unaddressed. Supplementation can help to compensate for these losses. Here are just a few examples:
Metformin causes B12 and folic acid deficiencies
Statin drugs prevent the body from making Coenzyme Q10
Zantac can decrease Vitamin D and calcium, among others.
Synthroid impairs iron absorption, often leading to deficiency.
SSRI’s (ie: Prozac) can interfere with the body’s production and release of melatonin. 
Antibiotics/Antibacterials (ie: Tetracycline, Ciprofloxin) can deplete our healthy gut flora, killing off bifidobacteria and Lactobacillus species (resulting in dysbiosis). 
Oral Contraceptives can decrease our levels of all B vitamins.


Tuesday's 

7. Malabsorption: It would be nice to think that we are all working with a healthy and efficient digestive system, but the real truth of it is, most of us aren’t! Malabsorption disorders include celiac disease, Crohn’s, pancreatic insufficiency (as seen in cystic fibrosis), lactose intolerance, and more. So, if we can’t absorb nutrients from food, how can we get them from supplements? It’s a great question, with an equally sensible answer: many supplements are formulated to compensate for malabsorption disorders. Whether this be a sublingual tab that bypasses the digestive system, or a nutrient that is paired with the enzymes needed to break it down in the body… supplements can be taken not only to correct malabsorption issues, they can make up for lost nutrients while absorption is being restored.

6. Food sensitivities and food allergies:  Both food allergies and sensitivities are all too common today and can wreak havoc on dietary nutrient intake, for a variety of reasons. First off, if sensitivity goes undiagnosed, or these foods are still being consumed for any reason, there is bound to be inflammation. Gut inflammation interferes with digestive enzyme function, gut flora, absorption and immune system integrity… all compromising dietary nutrient intake and overall health. Secondly, generally, if we are avoiding certain food groups that we are sensitive to, we are missing out on the necessary nutrients that these food groups provide. Take a dairy sensitivity for instance, although not impossible to get from other food sources, it certainly does make calcium intake a little more difficult. Supplementation can help us to make up for deficiencies while still sticking to our allergen free diets. They can also serve to soothe and calm inflammation so we are able to absorb more from the foods we are able to eat. It’s a win- win!


5. pH: Let’s talk ACID… or more accurately, acid-base imbalances. An optimal pH for our blood and body tissues is about 7.2 (this will vary when testing pH of saliva or urine, due to other proteins in these solutions). Enzyme production and release relies heavily on a specific pH. If our pH is overly acidic (most commonly seen) we are simply not producing the enzymes necessary to breakdown and digest our food properly, and therefore (can you guess?), we are not able to take advantage of the nutrients we are consuming. We can correct acid base imbalances through a healthy diet (dark leafy greens, root veggies, garlic and lemons!), as well as supplementation – sea vegetables! And we can actually supplement with pancreatic enzymes! Thus compensating for what we’re missing until optimal pH is achieved.

     4. Seasonal Need: Let’s take the most obvious and applicable example; vitamin D. The unfortunate truth about vitamin D is that in North America, even if we were outside naked for a large part of the day (Brrrrrrrrr!), we aren’t getting the vitamin D that we need from the sun! We are learning more and more about the MANY clinical implications that are associated with vitamin D deficiency, including cold and flu, autoimmune disorders, cancer, depression, fetal and neonatal conditions, and osteoporosis, to name a few. Nowadays many foods are fortified with additional vitamin D, difficult to find naturally in many of our everyday foods, and its still not enough. Even the perfect diet needs to be supplemented with additional vitamin D during the winter months.

Monday's


3. Soil Depletion, Fertilizers: Have you ever seen the sticker "Farmers Feed Cities"? It really couldn't be further from the truth. Food, in all its forms (veggies, grains, meats) is in high demand leading to over use of the land, along with an abundance of fertilizers and pesticides to produce the highest yield possible, year round. There is no doubt that this process of mass production at the lowest cost has taken a HUGE toll on the quality of nutrients in our food. When our soil is depleted of nutrients, so are the foods that grow in it, or the animals that feed from it. The over-use of chemicals, with no real long-term proof of health and safety repercussion to the consumer is scary, to say the least. Sadly, we simply aren’t receiving the same amount of nutrition in our food as we were only decades ago. To offset some of these deficiencies, we may need to turn to supplementation. 


2. Food Isn't Fresh: Unfortunately because not every small town, city or province can grow every food/product we, as consumers demand, many products in our local grocery stores are shipped from around the world. So, how do they keep that food fresh when it’s got a long way to go from the field to your table? There are various ways, none of which are preserving the nutrients we need –  and the longer it takes for the food to get to us - from the time its killed/picked/plucked, the less and less nutritious it is. Local farmers markets are one solution. Buying local from your local farmers markets, or straight from the farm is certainly one way to consume the freshest foods, but it doesn't solve all of our issues, especially during the winter months. 


1. We Need More (Optimal Functioning) RDA vs. ODI: Many people believe that if you eat a ‘well-balanced’ diet, you don’t have to worry about taking any supplements or vitamins because you’re getting enough through diet alone. Unfortunately, this isn't always the case. It is actually very difficult to get therapeutic amounts, and account for deficiencies using food as your only source of nutrients. What many people don't realize is that  there is a huge difference (when talking about optimal heath) between a Recommended Daily Allowance (RDA) and an Optimal Daily Intake (ODI), not to mention that the RDA is based upon general age groups and does not take into account individual need, or your unique family history (think prevention!!!). For true health and optimal nutrition, we generally need to be taking in much more than the RDA, amounts and specific nutrients needed varying based on the individual. It is not impossible to do this through diet along, in some situations, but it is certainly becoming more and more difficult, and certainly requires a lot of discipline and time. Minimal but necessary supplementation can certainly make this process a little easier.

2 comments:

V@ said...

I have been taking supplements for years and your list of 23 reasons is excellent! Most simply never think about these reasons. Thanks for sharing and spreading the news about why to take supplements. Best Regards, Wendy http://wendybottrell.com

Darren said...

Thank you Wendy ! We really appreciate you saying that - we are glad to hear you are on the Vitamin train like us. Keep it up and stay healthy!