I have taken supplements several times throughout my life, for specific reasons, but never consistently. Ordinarily I have relied on a balanced diet, but as I have become more interested in good health and living well, I am more curious. It has left me wondering ‘Are supplements good for you?’ We will look at what supplements offer us and the different types that are available.
Why should we take supplements?
People take supplements for many reasons. Some to enhance their health, others for weight loss or body improvement, others to fill gaps in their diet’s. Nutritional science is becoming more prevalent and it fascinates me. I am keen to read if there is new research to show that taking a certain vitamin, mineral or super food, could improve my health and body; I don’t want to miss out! Yet there seems to be so much information and opinion, that as a beginner I’m not sure where to start or what to believe.
One thing is certain, supplements should never be a replacement for a balanced diet, but rather, their job is to fill a nutritional ‘hole’ or ‘gap’ when our diet maybe deficient in certain vitamins, minerals and pro-biotics. The next question is why are our bodies deficient? There could be a whole range of reasons; some people will fall in to high risk health groups, and their bodies require supplements:
Individuals suffering with bone weakening disease osteoporosis, could be prescribed with vitamin D and calcium supplements.
Also, those with digestive diseases such as Chron’s could be prescribed B12 injections. My sister-in-law suffers with this and she is convinced the injections transform how she feels. The increased levels of B12 in her body enable her body to absorb more nutrients than it otherwise would be able to do and subsequently, helps improve her immune system.
Pre pregnancy and during the first trimester, it is essential for women to have sufficient folic acid in their bodies (it is recommended 400 micro grams every day before conception and for the first twelve weeks of pregnancy; this helps prevents neural tube defects including spina bifida.
Particularly towards the end of pregnancies women can find that their iron levels become deficient, leading to anemia and feeling extreme fatigue. An iron supplement can be very effective at rectifying this.
Recently my daughter who suffers with severe asthma, was having difficulty in controlling her symptoms. Her normal medicines were at their maximum dosages and a nutritionist recommended magnesium. It has now become a regular part of her daily regime.
Others who may require supplements are those on specific food diets, or those with a range of food allergies.
Also, there are increasingly large numbers of people that will take supplements to help with losing weight or increasing muscle and improving fitness performance at the gym.
So definitely in my household, supplements at times, have played a part in ensuring our bodies are receiving the nutrients they require. However, I like to know where my food comes from; where possible I want to have an organic diet. Is it possible to buy organic supplements or are they manufactured synthetically in laboratories the same as prescriptive drugs?
Synthetic vs Natural supplements
Well actually both are available. Synthetic supplements are artificially made, specific vitamins and minerals are identified and these are put into capsules, powders, liquids etc. Synthetic supplements are almost chemically identical as the minerals and vitamins found in our food, but it is unclear how well our bodies generally absorb and ‘use’ these supplements. Some maybe more easily absorbed others not. It is known that Vitamin E in its natural form is absorbed twice as efficiently as a synthetic Vitamin E supplement, but this is not across the board.
For me, personally I feel happier knowing that what I put into my body is a food source as opposed to something made in a laboratory. It seems more natural to me. Science still does not completely understand all the health benefits food can bring. Each ingredient has its own structure, enzymes, and range of nutrients. These wholefoods, are often dried/ dehydrated. They become concentrated forms and from there turned into powders or tablets. Therefore, each food will have a different effect our bodies, which is why if we want to achieve optimum good health, a balanced diet is essential.
How can we tell if supplements are natural?
Simply read the label. If supplements are natural the label will state that they are 100% animal or plant based, they may also tell you what the actual wholefoods are. If they are synthetic the labeling will state specifically which vitamins, minerals are present and the percentage of each element.
Which ever you choose, read the packaging carefully. It may recommend you seek medical advice, especially if you are already taking other medications and/or supplements. In the US supplements are regulated under the FDA (Food and Drug Administration) and are ‘prohibited from marketing products that are adulterated or misbranded,’ In the UK most food supplements ‘are regulated as foods and subjects to the provisions of general food law’ and in Canada the Food and Drugs Act encompasses supplements which come under the umbrella term ‘Natural Health Products.’
Where can we purchase wholefood supplements?
Online, pharmacies, supermarkets, health food shops. This is an enormous business and choice is vast. After researching a little, one company that has stood out for me, is Canadian based Pranin Organic. Their mission ‘to show you how pure, organic food can transform your health and the health of the planet.’ Their ingredients are all USDA Organic certified and they are always looking at ways to make their products more sustainable to the planet. They don’t use plastic in their packaging and are always looking at way to improve. This for me is a great ethos and we need more companies that are this passionate about our planet!
I am on the look out for a UK based company that I feel comfortable with. It is very easy to buy supplements in the UK, but I would like to find a smaller company with great sustainable credentials. Can anyone recommend a brand? I would love to take a look. As great as Pranin is, they are based in Canada. There must be a company in the UK or Europe doing something similar, so that as customers we can improve the carbon footprint of our supplements. I am learning more and more that in order for us to be healthy, our planet’s good health is vital!
What have we learnt?
I genuinely hope reading this has made you understand a little more about what a supplement is and the types that are available. People swear by their supplements; not taking them every day would feel like not brushing their teeth! The sheer knowledge that a multivitamin supplement is ensuring you are not missing out on any vital nutrients, can have a positive boost on your health.
There are different types of supplements out there, synthetic and wholefood. You can choose which you prefer! Remember some specific supplements can detrimentally affect your health, especially if taken in conjunction with medication and other supplements, so please seek medical advice and read the labeling of each product.
As soon as I get home (I’m currently in Spain, in Covid-19, lock down!) I will be keen to purchase a whole food daily supplement, Pranin will be my first choice. I will definitely write a blog in the future to let you know about the supplements that I have tried and how I think they have benefited me.
Remember if there are any companies out there that are UK based I would love to hear from them too!!! I would like to purchase an awesome wholefood supplements made and supplied in this part of the world and help keep our carbon footprint to a minimum. Please feel free to comment and leave your own personal experiences.
Live well, love Grace x