If you are not feeling at your best and wondering if supplementation is something you should consider, or if your medicine cabinet is jammed full of supplements and you are not sure if they are the right ones, reach out!
There has been a lot of talk regarding the necessity, or not, of vitamin supplementation. Some argue that our poor, inadequate diets require it. Others purport that we glean enough from the variety of foods we eat in addition to fortification of grains, so taking supplements is just a huge waste of money. Who are we to believe?
I get asked this question every day. Should I be taking a supplement? My answer? It depends. I agree that not everyone needs a supplement. Our ancestors went without popping pills every day and arguably did ok, in most cases. Maybe this fight against supplementation is warranted. On the other hand, we all know people and specific cases where supplements were extremely helpful. Iron deficiency, B12 deficiencies, and Vitamin C deficiencies are just a few examples. Also those with clearly inadequate diets would, I believe most would agree, benefit from some sort of supplementation.
What is the correct answer then? Again, it depends. There are so many factors that should go into the decision of whether to take a vitamin or not. Despite what online articles might tell you, its not a black or white issue. Lets walk through the areas I typically assess with clients to determine if supplements are worth considering.
The number one factor I assess when determining the need for vitamin supplementation is the clients current diet. Are they getting a varied diet, supplying a variety of nutrients throughout the day? Or, are they eating the same foods every single day, many of which are nutrient-poor? If the clients diet is not meeting their needs, of course the first step is to help them correct the issue. Along with better diet, however, supplementation can be helpful in rebuilding nutrient stores in the body. Sometimes we recommend specific nutrients of concern, say calcium, Vitamin D, B vitamins, etc, and other times we go straight to a multivitamin to help cover all the bases. Our goal is to support health through optimal nutrient status, and supplementation, at least in the short term, is one way to help clients achieve that.
The next factor I always address is overall health. Are there specific disease states that my increase the need for certain nutrients? Are there potentially genetic factors whereby the client does not use nutrients as optimally as they should, thereby requiring a higher intake to enhance absorption? In these cases, short-term or long-term supplementation at regular or sometimes much higher doses are warranted. Please note that vitamin supplementation for disease conditions or at higher doses than commonly recommended should be evaluated by a medical practitioner before commencing.
For example, some diabetics may be deficient in chromium. Chromium is a micronutrient that works with insulin to help it do its job. Obviously insulin function is very important to a diabetic, hence a diabetic might consider chromium supplementation in their treatment plan.
In terms of genetic issues, one example is someone with the MTHFR mutation, which causes a defect in the enzyme that helps convert folate into methyl-folate. Methyl-folate then goes on to make another product via another enzymatic process, which is then used used in hundreds of reactions throughout the body. If someone is not utilizing their folate as they should, symptoms can result. Supplementation can be a huge and necessary help.