Supplements – Do We Need Them?

By Molly Graham

There are many claims made about the miracles performed by supplements, but they do not perform miracles. If your health problem is caused by a lack of certain nutrients, then supplying them will help you to regain your health. If you contract a cold or flu, then vitamin C and echinecea or golden seal may hasten your recovery. On the other hand, if you have a chronic condition, do not expect supplements and diet alone to cure you. In this case, an individual assessment is needed.

First, let’s consider whether we need supplements just to maintain our good health. For the most part our ancestors did not take supplements and many had long healthy lives. On the other hand, they were eating organically grown fresh, local produce. Our commercially grown foods contain fewer vitamins, minerals and enzymes than those organically grown foods. We are exposed to more and more toxins that are being released into our environment, and to a greater number of viruses and bacteria through ease of global travel. We are also under greater stresses from our demanding lifestyles. There are some supplements that are needed now just to keep us healthy.

If you are taking synthetic drugs, you are being depleted of certain vitamins, minerals and enzymes. Each class of drugs depletes specific nutrients from the body. Supplements are necessary while taking drugs. After taking antibiotics, essential intestinal flora should be replaced with a good probiotic (acidophilus/bifidus). Exposure to chemicals and radiation also places demands on certain nutrients.

Be sure to buy good quality supplements. You get what you pay for in terms of absorption and health benefits. Generally liquid or powders that can be dissolved in liquids are the most easily assimilated. Some of the less expensive tablet forms are too difficult for the stomach to break down. They remain fermenting in the stomach and cause digestive upset. Choose natural over synthetic. Supplements made from concentrated food sources are preferable to isolated nutrients since nutrients all work together. Providing isolated nutrients can set up an imbalance in the body unless you know exactly what is needed.

A spoonful of cod liver oil was a morning ritual that most children tried their best to escape. There was wisdom in that, and perhaps the adults should have also been taking a spoonful. Fish oils are a source of vitamin D which all people in northern climates need to supplement. Our body manufactures vitamin D when exposed to summer sun. At least 20 minutes daily exposure on white skin (face and arms will suffice), more if your skin is dark or tanned. During the other seasons 1 to 2 teaspoons of fish liver oil will supply what you need. Doctors generally agree that the previously recommended 400 IU’s of vitamin D is not enough. Fish oils also provide some of those essential fatty acids – the omega 3-6-9’s. Be sure to get a quality brand that has not been heat processed and does not smell “fishy” – an indicator of rancidity.

Vitamin C is one nutrient that is quickly destroyed during exposure to air, heat, light and during storage. It cannot be produced by our body from foods and must therefore be supplied on a daily basis. It is a powerful immune enhancer. There have been numerous studies showing that daily intake of vitamin C can help reduce risk of heart attack and high blood pressure. There is even a cancer clinic in Europe that is treating patients with injections of up to 18,000 mg. of vitamin C without using chemotherapy and having very good results. Generally an adult needs 2000-3000 mg. of vitamin C daily, more when under stress (physical or emotional) or when taking synthetic drugs. For children — 100mg. per year of age up to 10 years. It is best to get a buffered vitamin C which means it also contains some minerals — calcium, magnesium, potassium – to buffer the acidity of the ascorbic acid and enhance absorption. Vitamin C should be taken in several small doses rather than one single dose. In a world that generates so many toxic chemicals and with global exposure to viruses and bacteria, our immune systems need extra vitamin C.

Iodine is necessary for proper functioning of the thyroid gland. Fluoride from water, tooth paste and foods, displaces iodine. Seaweed such as kelp is a good source of iodine. Refined table salt, which is not good for anyone, provides only a small part of our needs. To find out if you are deficient in iodine, paint a 2 inch square of food grade iodine from a pharmacy on the inside of your wrist or elbow. If it disappears before 18 – 24 hours you are deficient. Paint a 2 inch square on different soft skin areas of your body daily until it remains for more than a day. People living near the sea are not usually deficient in iodine if they are eating local produce.

The complex of B vitamins with folic acid is food for the nervous system and is depleted when we are under stress. In today’s hectic world, many of us could use B complex supplements. However, they should not be taken orally if you suffer from irritable bowel or similar problems.

Trace minerals are generally missing from commercial produce because they are not replaced in the soils through use of chemical fertilizers. Replacing the refined table salt, which is devoid of nutrients, with mineral salts such as unrefined sea salts and crystal salts (for example, Himalayan salts) will provide these minerals.

Powdered greens are packed with enzymes and nutrients that act synergistically and are easily assimilated. Most of us do not eat enough organic green vegetables. Although they do not taste great, my advice is – hold your nose and go for it.

Fresh lemon juice in a glass of warm water will help to cleanse your system and reduce acidity.

Chlorella is a food supplement that is a powerful antioxidant and immune system tonic that is high in digestive and other enzymes. It is alkaline and helps to balance body PH. It is also a good detoxifier of heavy metals (including dental mercury) and pesticides.

Hemp nuts (hulled hemp seeds) are high in omega 3 fatty acids and contain all the essential amino acids the body needs. They are easily digested and have a pleasing nutty taste — delicious sprinkled on salads, cereals, soups or in baking.

Many people come in to my clinic with bags full of supplements they are taking in an effort to regain their health. If supplements were all that were needed, these people wouldn’t be there. These supplements may give some temporary relief from symptoms, but are not addressing the real cause. I have listed some whole food supplements that most people would do well with. For specific problems it is best to get professional advice.