What are dietary supplements?
With so many toxins in our air, water and food supply, it is more important than ever to nourish our bodies adequately. While eating organic is one way of doing so, it does not guarantee that we are getting enough of the nutrients needed to live optimally healthy lives. Using dietary supplements is an effective way to help boost nutrient levels.
To get the most from supplementation, it is important to choose those that are “whole foods based” as often as possible. These are essentially foods that have been relieved of their fiber and water content yielding a concentrated complex of nutrients.
Many people take dietary supplements that do not provide the benefits of whole food supplementation. “Synthetic” supplements are not derived from foods, but rather from petrochemical sources. Isolated high potency nutrients without the benefit of a healthy diet can create nutritional imbalance if they are started and stopped or taken for an extended time. An example of this is excessive amounts of vitamin A or one of the B vitamins taken outside of a B-complex. Another concern with common, lower cost dietary supplements is potentially allergenic reactions caused by food additives, colors, preservatives, and corn, yeast or dairy products. Additionally, beware of supplements with no expiration date to guarantee freshness.
Why are supplements important?
Since our soil has been depleted of essential nutrients, we would need to eat a very large, perfect, organic diet daily to satisfy our nutrient needs. The more stress we experience, the more our bodies utilize our nutrient reserves, making it imperative that we replenish what is being so rapidly used. Furthermore, those who suffer from chronic conditions need added nutrients to manage their day-to-day nutrient needs and to support recovery.
Types of Supplements
Many people think of dietary supplements as vitamins and minerals alone. But there are many other forms of supplements to consider that provide superior health benefits.
Multivitamin and Minerals
Multivitamin and Minerals are the most common supplement taken. A one a day variety is unlikely to provide enough nutrient coverage to be worthwhile. A good multi would have greater than the Recommended Daily Allowances (RDA) for vitamins but would be at about the RDA for minerals. The way minerals are compounded will greatly determine their bioavailability.
Antioxidants are found in abundance in fruits and vegetables. They are the enemy of free radicals, which are chemicals that tear down cells and encourage disease and aging. Antioxidants are also found in animal sources, such as the case of Co-enzyme Q10.
Enzymes are energized protein molecules that conduct all biochemical actions without themselves being altered. When foods are cooked the enzymes are destroyed. To help replace what’s been lost, you can supplement with enzymes. Digestive enzymes help to break foods down so that the body can easily absorb the nutrients in foods.
Green Superfoods are full of vitamins, minerals, essential fatty acids and amino acids, but are also excellent blood purifiers due to their chlorophyll content. These supplements can be found in powder, liquid and pill form. Most grocers with a natural food aisle will have a small sampling of green superfoods.
Herbs have been used by human beings for medicinal purposes for thousands of years. They can be taken in many forms, from gelatin capsules to liniments, pills to oils, salves to syrups (to name only a few). Wild-crafted, organic herbs will yield the strongest results, but bear in mind that herbs can be very effective and should not be mixed with prescription medications. It is best to seek the advice of a professional before using herbal supplements, and always check with your health care provider or pharmacist if you are taking pharmaceuticals.
Fats and Oils
Fats and Oils are an important part of a dietary supplement regimen. Every cell of the human body is surrounded by a lipid (fat) membrane. Therefore, it is critical that we consume good quality fats to ensure the integrity of our cells for proper function. Omega-3 & Omega-6 fatty acids are referred to as essential fatty acids because they are essential to good health. Good sources of supplemental Omega-3 fatty acids are flaxseed oil and fish oil, while Omega-6 sources are flaxseed oil, borage and primrose oil. Oils can become rancid very quickly, so be sure to select a reputable brand from a source that has taken care in storing them properly.
Probiotics are often referred to as “friendly flora” for the intestinal tract. They are the friendly bacteria and fungi that live in the large and small intestines. The stress of daily modern life, poor diet (high meat/fat), drugs and alcohol can significantly reduce the amount of friendly flora in our intestines, necessitating supplementation. While there are literally billions of strains of probiotic, the two most important are Lactobacillus acidophilus and Bifidobacterium bifidum.
When it comes to taking dietary supplements, it is best to take the guess work out of what your body needs by consulting a professional. A holistic nutritionist can perform assessments to determine your areas of nutrient deficiency and make recommendations that will assist you in achieving your health goals.