Our social media is constantly bombarding us with ads that claim to have a magical cure-all that will make us healthier, stronger, thinner, younger, but of course, more often than not, these things are a shameless cash grab. As any doctor will tell you, there is no single amazing solution that will make all your ailments go away – if there was, they’d be out of a job.
However, there’s one that is among the most common that can be a bit of a grey area and that’s supplements. Many people immediately recoil at the word, and for good reason. Anything a supplement claims to contain is already contained in your food and if you have a balanced diet, taking additional supplements is absolutely pointless.
Once you’ve maxed out your uptake for Vitamin C or B, taking a supplement won’t boost their content in your body – they’ll basically pass straight through you. So the argument can definitely be made that supplements won’t make you any more of a superior human than you already are, or can become with fruits and vegetables. Worst case scenario, you might actually cause a problem by overtaking certain supplements.
Having said that, there’s a big proviso when it comes to taking supplements, which you may have caught per the above – a balanced diet. If you don’t eat healthily or maybe are allergic to certain food groups, you will wind up having a deficiency of certain vitamins, minerals or digestive enzymes. Moreover, if you have another health condition or are taking any medications, they can actively inhibit the uptake of certain nutrients.
This can also trigger a cascade effect, because some nutrients are needed for the absorption of others. For example, esomeprazol, which has become a popular treatment for severe heartburn, can inhibit the uptake of zinc, and zinc is needed for the uptake of Vitamin A. Alcohol and caffeine are also big nutrient inhibitors, as is too much stress or not enough sleep or hydration.
The end result of this is that you might wind up feeling very unwell – tired, groggy, have bad skin or any number of issues and if you go to a doctor with your symptoms, very often they’ll chalk it up to low Vitamin D or test for more serious causes, while overlooking your vitamin and mineral uptake. Between worrying about cholesterol, blood sugar or heart problems, so rarely are vitamins considered as the actual root cause of your feeling ill.
If you get tested and find out that you have deficiencies in certain nutrients, natural correction is always best. Maybe you need to introduce more fibre or leaner meat or protein into your diet. But if you have health or dietary restrictions that prevent the consumption of the natural sources of the vitamins you need, then supplements are the solution.
So the short answer is – if you eat healthily and maintain a relatively healthy lifestyle, all the nutrients you need will be coming from your food and sunshine and additional supplements are completely unnecessary. However, if you have a confirmed deficiency and can’t adapt your diet, then you will need to take additional vitamins to make sure your body is getting what it needs.
An important thing to note however is that supplements are not medicines and are therefore not subject to the same scrutiny and peer review as other medications. If you do decide to take supplements, do some research and stick to trusted brands that can guarantee the quality – and quantity – of their product. Do a bit of research and learn how to spot inferior products. And make sure to specifically get the nutrient you require – most standard “multivitamin” tablets are about as helpful as tic tacs, so discuss your particular needs with your doctor or nutritionist and take only those supplements that your body is missing.