Nutritional Supplementation

This is the final in a seven part post on healthy lifestyle choices. To summarize, I have so far discussed the need to take personal responsibility for one’s health; a reminder was given to make choices for optimum health you need to know your body, how it reacts to different stimuli and to equip yourself with scientific knowledge about general health.

In this series we have looked at the following controllable factors affecting health:

  • positive thinking and mindfulness;
  • exercise (at least thirty minutes, three times a week at least);
  • sleep and rest;
  • skin care;
  • hydration;
  • food and diet.

In this post I will consider the final controllable factor in the quest for optimum health and wellness: the use of supplements.

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Many persons take at least one dietary supplement per day. Dietary supplements include:

  • vitamins
  • minerals
  • herbals and botanicals which provide phytonutrients
  • amino acids
  • enzymes.

How do you take your supplements? Do you take them regularly, at the same time every day? Do you take them when you remember? Do you take them when you experience symptoms of ill health? Are they taken once a day, twice or three times per day? Every day? Do you stay away from them on weekends? Do you use tablets, capsules, powders, drinks or energy bars? These are all ways that people do actually take their supplements. I try to be consistent with the intake of a daily multivitamin. Unfortunately, I am not as committed with others such as calcium, magnesium, vitamin D and glucosamine for example.

When my body was depleted during recuperation from the gunshot wound and reconstructive surgery, I had to dissolve the multivitamin in order to consume it. Being rich in phytonutrients (nutrients from plants), the taste was not very pleasant. However the effect on my body was noticeable. When I was consistent with the doses, I was able to endure the days. When I got complacent with the doses, my body would break down and the day would leave me drained of energy, as the liquid diet was not adequate by itself.

Just as many take supplements, many persons are also against taking supplements, believing that eating a proper diet like our ancestors used to eat,  would provide sufficient nutrients. However more and more, dietary supplementation is becoming not just important but necessary. Why is this so? Why do we need supplements? There are several reasons why our diets need to be reinforced with nutrients. Let us examine some of these briefly.

First, for  a variety of reasons, including busy lifestyles, we do not eat a sufficiently wide range of nutritious foods which could lead to either deficiency in one or more macro or micro nutrients or an excess of one type. This is undesirable. For example, vitamin deficiencies are linked to chronic diseases such as coronary heart disease, cancer and osteoporosis.

There are particular groups of people who cannot obtain their daily nutrient requirements from food alone. These groups include:

  1. the elderly
  2. vegans
  3. alcohol dependent persons
  4. patients with malabsorption conditions such as Crohn’s Disease or Colitis.

Apart from these special cases, we all need to supplement our diets for a very simple reason: our foods today contain insufficient nutrients! Historically food was sufficient. However,  in the last century or so our food has been grown in soil that is depleted. To improve the yield of crops, fertilizers are added, but this has the disadvantage of destroying the nutritive value of the food. Similarly, a high percentage of foods today are processed and refined, genetically modified or prepared in some manner to reduce the quality of the food.

Below is a list of other reasons why dietary supplementation is recommended today.

  • Scientific evidence has shown the use of some supplements to be beneficial for overall health while some health conditions seem to be better managed with the use of supplements. These conditions include calcium and vitamin D for bone health; folic acid for pregnant women to help decrease the risk of birth defects; and omega-3 fatty acids help with heart disease.
  • some people have poor digestive systems.
  • Some method of food preparation, such as the use of microwaves, contribute to reduced food value.
  • High industrialisation leading to environmental toxins which release chemicals in the water and air. We need to consume supplements which counteract the effect of these toxins. A high chemical load is undesirable as it could lead to a lowered metabolic rate leading eventually to obesity.
  • Our high-stress lifestyles produce effects such as insomnia. Supplementation of our diets could combat this effect.
  • May be taken to control hormonal imbalances.
  • As we are well aware, supplementation (not referring to banned substances) may also improve athletic performance.

Well from that list of reasons for the use of supplementation, I am sure you can find one that fits in with your own situation; at least one good reason why you ought to use supplements. What do you think, to supplement or not to supplement? Please drop me a line and let me know your thoughts on the matter and if in fact, you already do supplement.

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