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Supplements: What I Take and Why...

Disclaimer:

First things first... nothing in this blog article constitutes medical advice. I am not a medical doctor, but rather a pattern reader with all-natural recommendations on how to restore balance as it relates to Ayurveda. Taking vitamins and supplements is a personal choice based on knowing my patterns and medical history. I do not diagnose illness or prescribe herbs, medicine, or supplements to treat symptoms. When you choose to use vitamins, minerals and supplements, you do so at your own risk as it is a multi-billion dollar industry that is unregulated. My advice is to always tune in to how YOU feel with and without the supplement... if you feel worse, discontinue ... and always discuss with a physician if you take any pharmaceuticals as there may be interactions and/or side effects you are unaware of.


Article

Every morning after my oral routine is finished and I've had my first cup of hot water, I take a variety of supplements. I've been a vegetarian for about 4 years now and even with all the whole, organic plants I eat, I still supplement vitamins, minerals, protein (of course) and other vital nutrients. (Last week I began eating fish again, so I think this now makes me a pescatarian.)


Why do I supplement? Because our soil and our food is SOOOOOOOO devoid of nutrients, it's unlikely I'll consume enough food (volume and variety) to get 100% of the daily value recommendations even on a purely whole foods diet.




Here are some great resources for you to explore if you'd like to understand the evidence about nutrient depletion in the American food chain.


Blame it on the soil, carbon dioxide, diet, monoculture or whatever ... whether we like it or not, most people aren't getting enough nutrients.

But many processed foods are fortified with vitamins & minerals, right? YES AND NO.


Yes food manufacturers will often use specific compounds of vitamins and minerals to infuse some degree of nutrient content into food, however most aren't combining them with the other necessary components for these additives to be bioavailable, and so the body can't readily use them. (Here's a nice video and article on bioavailability.)



For example, calcium requires vitamins D, A & K as well as magnesium, phosphorus and zinc in order for the body to metabolize and use it properly. If your diet is lacking in plant-based content (fruits, veggies, legumes and seaweed) you likely aren't getting enough variety of vitamins & minerals, and therefore can't process and synthesize the added nutrients. Another concern is that the vitamins and minerals added to foods are of lower quality and largely synthetic (meaning they don't come from food) in order to control costs, and evidence-based, longitudinal research is lacking about the efficacy and the impact these chemicals have on the human body.


Why I choose to supplement...

For my personal situation being predominantly vegetarian 4-5 days a week, I know I need to have a source of vitamin B12 (found mostly in animal products), omega 3 fatty acids (found in fatty fish, nuts and seeds) and additional protein. These are all vital for brain development, mitochondrial health, methylation and the creation of healthy cells & tissues. I take a Smarty Pants or Ancient Nutrition brand women's multi-vitamin, a Kirkland's brand (Costco) fish oil, and Vital Protein brand of bovine collagen. I make homemade beef bone broth every month and cook with it every week to get added collagen and minerals. I also cook with and add pink Himalayan salt to my food and water to get additional magnesium, zinc, calcium, potassium, sodium, and other trace elements. Many of these are electrolytes which are needed to carry signals through the body and the nervous system. They enhance and improve electrical conductivity which is one of the primary ways the body transmits information.


Based on the assumption that our soil is depleted from overharvesting, fungicides, pesticides and herbicides, I am less likely to get enough variety in the 'good bacteria' that supports a healthy gut microbiome - even though I buy organic. So I supplement with Bio K+ probiotics twice a year during our annual cleanses and daily with ION Intelligence of Nature's gut support. I eat loads of fibrous whole foods like bitter leafy greens, whole grains and legumes which are excellent pre-biotics, foods the probiotics need for their survival, so it's very probable my good bacteria is flourishing.

In my past, I have been regularly iron deficient. In fact when I was pregnant with Kimberly, I was very anemic. With this knowledge combined with poor circulation, it's never a bad idea for me to get just a bit more in my diet. Red meat is high in iron as are some dark leafy greens, but the best source of iron, B vitamins, folate, choline and selenium comes from organ meats. I know what you are thinking... there's no supplement for that. Oh contraire. I take one capsule per day of Ancient Nutrition's Organs Blend supplement.


I also love, love, love all things mushroom and feel like these magical fungi have super powers we haven't fully appreciated until recently. Not only are they great for building new neuropathways and supporting the immune system, they often are necessary to help break down food into their constituent parts. They have even been shown to improve the communication network of the nervous system. I love the Host Defense brand and regularly take either the Immune Defense blend, turkey tail or cordyceps.


Lastly, I take shatavari from the Himalaya brand and triphala guggulu by Banyan Botanicals. Shatavari is a herb from the asparagus family and is an adaptogen. Adaptogens are a special category of herbs that help the body cope with emotional and physical stress. Shatavari is known in Ayurveda for its ability to balance both vata and pitta doshas, and has been used for centuries to help reduce menstrual pain and discomfort. As a 47-year old woman in perimenopause, I take it only when needed for 1.5-2 weeks. For the most part it's not needed (read my blog on women's health to learn why). The triphala guggulu is an Ayurvedic blend that is a colon tonic and helps with absorption of minerals. Triphala is a combination of amalaki, bibhitaki & haritaki and is known for promoting regular bowel movements and is particularly useful for those with constipation. Guggulu is very fortifying and supports the circulatory, nervous and respiratory systems, as well as the joints. This combination is not something I will be on long term, but rather to help me build healthy fat tissue to reduce some arthritic type popping in my joints.


Summary - Supplements Don't Replace Real Food

As with all things MODERATION IS KEY. Any vitamin, mineral or herb taken in abundance can be toxic. With all of the above, I take less than the recommended dosage because I eat 3 meals a day of largely whole foods, and I probably get great coverage from my diet. I'm also very intentional about why I take something, and I monitor the outcome and the way I feel vigilantly.

The vitamins and minerals contained in supplements are not a substitute for real food.

Many people wrongly believe they are covered if they take a one-a-day multivitamin. The truth is whole foods contain other necessary biochemicals that are important for the synthesis of the vital nutrients - compounds like polyphenols, flavonoids, amino acids and more. Mother Nature has given us the ideal combinations we can metabolize in the form of fruit, vegetables, fish, meat and pulses.


If you do choose to supplement, buy organic. This limits your exposure to petrochemical-based synthetic versions of the real thing. Also ... do your homework... learn the common symptoms and side effects of the supplement before you start taking it. Just because it's trendy doesn't mean it's right for you. You need to know what too much of a good thing looks like so you can cease use immediately. For example, vitamins K, D, A & E are fat soluble and can be toxic if accumulated beyond what your body can metabolize. Know the warning signs.



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