When I first started dabbling in this, there were a ton of questions running through my head including do I even need supplements, if I do which do I need, do they even work or do they just pass through your system, am I wasting my money, what amounts do I need, what form do I need, what is safe, etc.
I won’t attempt to answer all of these questions here, that would be a really long blog, but I will give some helpful hints in order to know what to look for. Although I am still learning about this, I have come across some interesting information that has opened my eyes on this subject.
The most shocking discovery for me was in regards to the almost useless RDA levels. The RDA is the recommended daily allowance for nutrients. I thought, probably like most of you, that this is the good amount of nutrients you should strive to get in a day. If you get that amount, you’re good…wrong! Apparently, these are the minimum numbers before you actually get sick…like getting scurvy and rickets the old diseases of the 1800s, these levels haven’t been updated in years and I’ve discovered that there is a very big range between your optimal levels and this minimum level…sometimes the range is such that the optimal level is 50x or 100x more depending on the nutrient!
As I said, this information completely shocked me and I could not believe that I had it all wrong like this. Here is another reason why you have to educate yourselves and not blindly follow the government recommendations.
The other interesting piece of information for me was that one individual may have quite a different optimal level of a nutrient than another individual. This can depend whether they are currently well, or sick, or even just on genes. As soon as I read that, it made sense to me.
I’ve also tried this little phone app ‘myfitness pal’ which I used for a few months to log all that I was eating and my exercises and it would calculate the calories for me but also the amounts I was getting of a few nutrients like the major vitamins and minerals. It was cute and helpful in a way, but very general. What I did learn from it is that sometimes I don’t even meet the RDA levels let alone the optimal levels and I thought I had a pretty decent diet!
I started to think that it was impossible to eat the amount of fruits and vegetables and nuts and seeds to get the optimum levels of nutrients, but also believed that multivitamin supplements just wasted your money (with the exception of vitamin D and omega-3) because they just passed through your system without being absorbed, or you were taking too little of the amounts to make any difference.
I also started to doubt whether these huge levels of supplements weren’t just a scam to make me buy more pills! What I’ve learned is that this is true with many of the supplements out there but not all. All in all, I am getting convinced that supplementing with the right supplements may be good for you.
Logically I do understand why vitamins and minerals are vital to our existence. I also do agree that since 50 years ago, we are getting exposed to many more chemicals and toxins than ever before and vitamins and minerals help to eliminate these, however our food is getting worse and worse (more and more stripped of nutrients and filled with chemicals). Then looking also at some of my symptoms of less than optimal wellness, I figure this must be taking a toll on my body. Finally I have read a lot on the subject and come to respect many of the authors and people in support of this, which includes Nobel Prize winner Linus Pauling.
And I have nothing to lose by doing a 3 month test and will help you do the same if you wish to.
The first thing to keep in mind is that supplements should not replace a good whole food diet with as much as raw and alkaline foods as possible. Supplements should add on to a good diet.
What are the optimum levels:
As explained they are different for every individual, and it is best to first figure out where you are deficient, but for a typical general range you can view this here: http://www.patrickholford.com/index.php/advice/betterhealtharticle/138/
Some studies have been made where supplementing has been shown to make no difference, it is believed that this is because the levels were not high enough. You may be surprised, just like I was, at how high some of these levels are but rest assured that this is well below any toxicity levels even if you add this to a typical diet. Statistically speaking, you are actually more likely to die from a shark attack than from supplement toxicityJ.
How do I know how much I need:
You can take a questionnaire to determine this to a certain degree, see a nutritionist or integral medicine specialist, do a variety of tests like blood test, or hair analysis test (the latter to determine what minerals you may be deficient in and if you have any metal toxicity), or follow the general recommendations and see how you feel after 3 months.
Reading the label:
– Some companies will only list the amount of the mineral compound and not the actual mineral amount itself (elemental value). Reputable companies will typically list the ingredients and the elemental value of a compound.
– Often, other ingredients are present like fillers or coating compounds, make sure these are all natural, non-toxic and organic compounds.
– Make sure that you buy supplements in highly absorbable forms (like calcium ascorbate for example).
– Natural versus synthetic: in general, natural are more potent (therefore better).
When to take them:
Most should be taken with food. The exceptions are Vitamin C to be taken outside of meals, zinc and selenium on an empty stomach. Also certain foods can help or hinder the absorption. Coffee, alcohol, antibiotics and stress hinder most. Also be careful about combinations with drugs.
Patrick Holford (2009), The Optimum Nutrition Bible, London, UK.