I should start off by saying that I am not in any way, shape or form anti-supplement. Supplements are a great tool and they serve many people well, especially when used appropriately. But here’s what I don’t understand. People are slowly moving away from treating every minor ailment and condition with a prescription drug (which is great). However, many are replacing pharmaceuticals with natural supplements – which are sadly doing the same thing (albeit usually in a safer way). They are simply treating symptoms and covering up the problem, never truly getting to the cause.
As a chiropractor my viewpoint may be different. After all, our profession was founded on the idea of getting to the cause – we focus on creating health rather than managing disease. I would never associate health as something that could come out of a pill or bottle whether they were natural or not), but as something that is experienced from the inside-out. When it comes to nutrition – the right food turns on the right genes, and create biological signals that create health, while the wrong foods turn on genes that cause disease and create biological chaos.
With that being said, have you been in a health food store recently? Standing in line you can see people whose shopping cart is covered with no less than 30 boxes of different herbs, vitamins, and supplements of all kinds. B-complexes, Glucosamine, Licorice, Vitamin E, Vitamin C, Ginko, Garlic, and St. John’s Wort just to name a few. While this is certainly an extreme example, it’s not as rare as you might think.
We have the power to determine how healthy our cells are by the choices we make with our bodies. Our bodies are equipped with an incredible ability to go towards health when it’s supplied with the right building materials. If your cells are like houses, the quality of the cell is dependent on the building materials which are found in our food.
Taking vitamins have become an extra job for some, here’s how to avoid it:
1. Eat Real Food – If it was grown on a plant, eat it. If it was made in a plant, avoid it. If it has a label stay away. Colorful plant foods, the dark greens, blues, reds, oranges and yellows are all indicators of powerful plant compounds called phytonutrients that turn on anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, detoxifying genes.
2. Go Local and/or Organic – Since you are now eating real food (see #1), you are going to be eating a lot more fruits and vegetables. Organic foods lean towards nutrient retention and are also free of chemical pesticides. While some pesticide may not create symptomatic effects in most people, because of their fat soluable nature, they can build up and get stored in fat cells of the body. There have been several documented cases of people undergoing toxic reactions during weight loss from pesticide residues.
3. Create the Perfect Plate – 50% low starchy veggies like broccoli, asparagus, salad fixings, 25% lean protein (chicken, fish, beans, nuts or seeds), and 25% gluten-free whole grain like brown rice or quinoa or starchy veggies like sweet potato.
4. Cut Back on Sugar – Eating sugar and high carbohydrate processed foods spike insulin, which throws a monkey wrench in hormone production in the body. Insulin production is an important process for storing nutrients and processing glucose in the bloodstream, but our bodies simply can’t handle the insulin requirements we throw at them.
5. Get Moving – Weight loss aside, exercise is important for brain and nerve function. When you don’t exercise, the part of your nervous system that controls all of your organs (autonomic nerves) can become deficient. Movement of the body feeds the brain a valuable nutrient. If you have your nervous system working properly, then the tissues of your body will just work better.
6. Start Strong – As part of your morning ritual, add a green (i.e. vegetable) smoothie (this can be any combination of several greens, avocado, coconut oil, and a little fruit). This is designed to deliver great nutrient-dense antioxidants and phytonutrients from vegetables with the fruit added to sweeten and lessen any bitterness from the chard, kale and spinach.
7. Ditch the Wheat – Wheat has taken over our food supply. Our modern day wheat has literally become a poison which makes you fat, inflamed and addicted. Two slices of whole wheat bread raise your blood sugar more than two tablespoons of table sugar. Give it up for a month and watch your health transform.
8. Fill in the Gaps – Look, we are all super busy. Sometimes it gets hard to meet all of your nutritional and movement needs in our day to day lives. Work gets in the way, kids get in the way, sleep gets in the way. I get it. That’s where supplements should fill in the gaps. Research shows that a majority of Americans have deficiencies in the following nutrients: Omega 3 Fatty Acids, Vitamin D, and Probiotics.
Why are we deficient in these? Most of us just simply don’t eat enough salmon, get enough sun light, and are exposed to too many antibiotics/antimicrobials our entire lives. That’s why if you were going to rely on any kinds of supplements, and you are a generally healthy person, these are usually going to be a great fit for 98% of you. In addition, adding a high quality whole food multivitamin can help because truthfully we can’t eat real food at every meal, every day. (For further info on these, see my Core Four Recommendations)