You can’t supplement your way out of a bad diet I believe food always comes first as you can't supplement your way out of a bad diet however, sometimes it is necessary to recommend supplements, especially if you have had a long period of time not eating well. Nutrient deficiencies are commonly linked to symptoms such as fatigue, brain fog, aches and pains, digestive issues and many more so nutrient deficiencies have to be considered in a consultation.
A lot of the time my clients think they are eating well but sometimes it is not as nutrient dense as they think, especially if they are eating a lot of refined carbs, bad fats, processed foods and drinking a lot of alcohol – even if it is organic!
Focussing on eating nutrient dense foods, good quality protein, healthy fats and lots of vegetables and some fruit is a good start and the best way to nourish your body but occasionally we need to supplement, especially with nutrients we know as a population we are regularly deficient in like vitamin D and omega 3’s.
A few facts about the food we eat:
- Food processing, pesticides and long-distance transportation can deplete the nutrients in foods
- Soil quality today is not as rich as it used to be. In fact, it has 20% fewer minerals compared to the 1930's (and 50% lower zinc and calcium)
- We are what we absorb. Your ability to digest and absorb your food can be impaired by many things like low stomach acid/digestive enzymes, gut health, stress, hormones, medications.
- Climate and culture, this is particularly relevant for vitamin D if you don't get strong sunshine all year round, don't get outside much, cover yourself up or stay in the shade, you wear sun cream when you're outside.
- Ageing; as we get older, your body needs some extra help to get the nutrients in. We may have hormone imbalances, inflammation, oxidative stress, toxicity and general wear and tear.
The confusing supplement market The supplement market is a nightmare - just because something is heavily advertised or marketed as ‘healthy' doesn't mean it’s any good for you and the fact that supermarkets now sells supplements fills me with horror….
In fact, many of these mass market cheap brands are the ones they use in the scientific research which come out saying taking vitamins are useless – so don’t believe everything you read in the papers!
Cheap brands mean cheap ingredients that may not be in the best bio-available form for the body, meaning it doesn't do a good job. They often have contaminants or cheap fillers and preservatives that you also don't want to be taking in. Some even add sugar or sweeteners…. This is why I only recommend ‘food state’ vitamins as they are, as the name suggests, made from food so your body only uses what it needs and recognises the nutrients in their purest form.
We are also having to contend with all the advice that is now given out on social media by unqualified people – whilst it may have worked for them, it may not work for you and may even make you worse as supplements can have a contraindication with any medication you are taking so always talk to a health practitioner if you are thinking of taking supplements or ask your doctor to see if they may interact with your medication.
What Supplements Are Best? I'm afraid there's no ‘one size fits all' with supplements. It depends on a whole host of things as to whether a supplement will work for you or not; your genetics, your symptoms, your history, your biochemistry, your diet and lifestyle, your digestion, and of course any medications you’re on.
However, after saying all that, there are some basic supplements that I recommend for most of my clients as they are pretty safe to take for the majority (please do check with your doctor if you're on medication or have a diagnosed health condition).
My Top 5 Basic Supplements:
- A good multivitamin/mineral – unless you are being tested for every nutrient that you need, a good quality multivitamin and mineral is your basic insurance policy.
- Vitamin D3 with K2 – unless you live in year round sunshine and expose your skin to it, you will need a vitamin D top up in the winter. We know that vitamin D is essential for healthy bones but it’s a vital immune system regulator, as well as beneficial for mood, heart health, hormones and more. It doesn’t work alone though – it needs magnesium, Vitamin K2 and other nutrients that you'll get in your multi.
- Vitamin C – as well as fighting infection and immune support, Vitamin C is a potent antioxidant – meaning that it prevents too much oxidative stress which protects our cells and our DNA from damage. It’s needed for the production of collagen, the major component of skin, bone and connective tissue and it helps the adrenals to produce cortisol.
- Omega 3 Fish Oil – unless you are eating oily fish at least 3 times a week, you are likely not getting enough omega 3 fats. These are called ‘essential fats' for a reason as we can’t make them ourselves and have to eat through our diet or supplement. They are critical for the structure of your cell membranes and reducing inflammation. They play an important role in reducing the risk of arthritis, heart disease and brain and mood disorders. There are many fish oils out there, but many are contaminated with heavy metals or have gone rancid. It’s really important to buy a good quality brand.
- Magnesium - responsible for over 300 different enzyme reactions in the body, including energy production, adrenal support, heart and bone health. It's your relaxation mineral, so great for stress, twitchy muscles and sleep.
Which supplement brands are best? It's so important to invest in trusted brands that have the best available forms of ingredients so that your body can use them effectively. Some of my favourite brands are Wild Nutrition, Cytoplan, Link Nutrition, Aqua Biome and Elvide (a new magnesium product only available directly from them at the moment).
Remember, please check with your Doctor or health practitioner if you want to start a new supplement and you're on medication or have an existing health condition.