Supplements have a purpose.
I haven’t always felt 100% confident in that statement. Food has been my focus and I truly felt we could get everything we need from food alone.
But what I’ve learned through my years of studying culinary nutrition and functional medicine is that our food isn’t always enough.
Our food doesn’t have the nutrients it once did.
Modern factory farming methods, natural erosion and the lack of crop rotation have depleted soil, which in turn affects the amount of nutrients a plant will retain. If the dirt is depleted and it’s not in the plant, it won’t be in the food.
Our bodies may require more than we are able to reasonably eat.
Bioindividuality – every body has different requirements based on who we are. Age, health challenges, our genes and even our athletic aspirations will affect not only the quantities we need, but also how our body appropriates them.
Many people don’t have access to nutrient-dense foods.
As hard as it may be to believe, there are food deserts where access to foods is extremely limited. Or financial situations come into play. Access and availability could be keep nutrients out of our systems.
You body may not be absorbing the nutrients you are eating (due to low stomach acid or enhanced intestinal permeability.)
Strong stomach acid is required to separate minerals from proteins to allow absorption of them further down the digestion tract. If we can’t break these down, we won’t be able to absorb those minerals. Perhaps we have strong stomach acid, but our semi-permeable intestinal lining has lost some of its spring, this could again keep us from actually absorbing nutrients.
Medications can block, compete or deplete absorption of some nutrients.
Medications can be quite helpful in many situations, but they come with some risk especially the longer you take them. For instance, it’s been well documented that diuretics can deplete potassium and magnesium. Proton Pump Inhibitors (think nexxium) lower the acidity of our gastric juice which can offer short term relief, but it reduces our stomach acid leaving us unable to break down our food, as noted above. Birth control pills depletes a variety of our B-vitamins, especially B6 while Metformin comes with a risk of B12 depletion. And the list goes on.
Dietary choices can leave us lacking nutrients.
Most notable is a vegan or vegetarian diet- while it’s quite possible to have a completely balanced intake, it does take work and planning. Vitamin B12 (found in meat) and zinc (because it competes with copper and most plant foods are copper rich) are two nutrients that are often found to be deficient, or insufficient, in these diets.
Demand v supply.
Our demand for nutrients is higher than ever before (because of stress, air pollution, pesticides, processed foods, artificial colors and flavors to name a few reasons), but as noted above, our supply is actually lower.
Nutrients are often developed and concentrated in the skin, yet many peel and toss these rather than use the whole food.
Sometimes supplements can move a person from just surviving to THRIVING. Supplements have a purpose for a period of time; think of them as short term strategy. Depending on your challenges, the goals is to replete the body so it can manage its own stores better.
Does EVERYONE need to take supplements? Probably not. Again, it goes back to bioindividuality- how do you feel? What kind of symptoms are you having? What does your particular body need now? Perhaps it’s time for a check in on your symptoms with a nutritionist, a doctor or a coach.
But also remember, supplements also go beyond the capsule found inside the bottle. Laughter, stretching and sleep should also be thought of as long-term supplements. That’s a big mind-shift but it goes a long way in healing the body.
So now that we know supplements really can make a difference, does it matter WHICH supplement brand you buy? And what about WHERE you buy it? Look for our followup articles coming soon!1