The supplement aisle at Target is a scary place. You venture there to pick up Kind bars but you try to avoid making contact eye with the other side. You use the same multivitamin you always have and don’t see any reason to change. You eat healthy (most of the time) so what’s the point in trying to remember one more thing in your daily routine? If I really needed to take something else, you think, my doctor would tell me. (Like the calcium you keep forgetting.) You don’t want to be popping pills all day long if you don’t need to.
The problem is most of us do need supplements. For the most part, your doctor is just too uneducated to know it and to rushed to figure it out. It’s not really his fault that there is so little formal training in medical schools on nutrition. According to one study in the Journal of Biomedical Education, doctors receive on average only 19 hours of nutritional training in medical school. Enough to understand the basics but not nearly enough to help their patients eat to prevent disease and obtain optimal health. As for supplements, they can often be just as confused as we are.
I am not a doctor. (Although based on the study, I do have more nutritional training than they often do.) I would also not consider myself an expert on supplements as I do not sell them and they aren’t the focus of my business. I do believe that we need to get as much nutrition as we can out of the food we consume. I also know for most of us it is not going to be enough. We need a good base but we need supplements to cover the gaps caused by our food delivery system, agricultural practices, dietary choices, food intolerances and allergies, stress and age.
I do love to read the research on supplements (and nutrition in general). I also have a couple of go-to sources when I have questions. Dr. Tieranoa Low Dog is one of my favorite experts. I regularly hear her on The People’s Pharmacy talking about natural therapies for common ailments and conditions. Dr Low Dog has a medical degree from University of New Mexico School of Medicine as well as training in herbal medicine, integrative medicine and martial arts. She is my favorite blend of well-researched science with the natural remedies that have been used for hundreds of years because they work time and time again.
Her new book, Fortify Your Life, is your new best friend. If you find the supplement section of the health food store overwhelming or simply think you don’t need any supplements you need to read this book NOW.
What? You need to finish Anna Karenina for book club first? Okay, let me give you a few examples of things to consider while you finish up it. (I must of course add the disclaimer to always talk to a medical professional before adding something new. Even your pharmacist can assist with potential drug interactions and health considerations.)
Your multi was in the news a while back. Remember that study that said it didn’t make any difference? What most headlines missed was that the study was looking at heart attack prevention and not optimal health overall. We all have nutritional gaps in our basic vitamins and minerals. Some of us may need more specific help than others however she recommends a multi-vitamin for pretty much everyone. (Dr. Low Dog provides chart in the back of the book to review by specific health condition or concern what specific supplements you might consider.) I have always recommended a multi-vitamin to most of my clients as gap insurance.
Reading this book inspired the post I did recently on finding the right omega-3 supplement for you. I take one because I don’t eat fish, the best source of DHA. After reviewing hundreds of food journals I know most of you aren’t eating fish either. Review my post here to find to see more on Dr. Low Dog’s recommendations.
We sit inside at desks (or work in the gym) all day long. When we do go out we wear a lot of sunscreen and maybe a big floppy hat. We aren’t getting the sunlight we need so the body can synthesize this critical vitamin. It is very hard to get from food, especially in the quantities we need. A supplement is generally considered safe for most people although, as a fat soluble vitamin, it can get stored in the body. Get your levels tested and don’t take mega doses without a doctor’s approval.
Probiotics are a hot topic right now. The more we learn about how gut health impacts everything from metabolism to diabetes to depression, the more questions I get about probiotics. I personally only added these a couple of years ago but noticed a huge difference in my body. Dr. Low Dog does have me rethinking my personal brand and looking for one that is kept cold for optimal effectiveness. It’s an important supplement to consider adding to your daily routine but which kind will depend on your needs.
Now…the supplement you may need to take LESS of.
You heard me. Dr. Low Dog recommends reviewing how much calcium you consume in foods daily. Between the fortified almond milk, protein shakes and other foods naturally containing calcium you may be eating and drinking more than you think. Do your own calculations and see if you need to make an adjustment in how much calcium you take in supplement form.
I really do want you to read this book. I believe good health is a partnership. Your doctors and coaches are experts but I don’t think you should follow any of us (myself included) blindly. The more you know the more you better able to evaluate the advice any of use give you and defend yourself again overzealous salespeople at the health food store. You’ll feel so much more confident in the supplement aisle armed with the facts.
Are you a fan of Dr. Low Dog? What’s one supplement you can know your body can’t do without?