Over the years, I have worked with clients who have a very wide array of attitudes, assumptions, and beliefs about dietary and therapeutic supplements. The supplements I recommend for each client are fully customized. Whether it’s a specific vitamin, mineral, herbal extract, essential fat, or hormone, every recommendation I make to my clients is driven by their unique health history, physiology, genetics (in some cases), dietary choices, current biochemical imbalances, and goals.
There is no standard program I use with my clients. All supplement recommendations are completely customized to the individual. I am focused on very thoroughly understanding their symptoms, their history, and in particular, their labwork in terms of understanding what their unique body needs. I see all sorts of level of comfort in my clients. Some people are happy to take 50-60 supplements a day with no problem and are very engaged with and focused on the value of them. Other clients are much more hesitant and more questioning. A question I get very often is, “if I eat well, then why do I need a supplement?” And I’ll answer that in just a moment. But most of my clients are somewhere in between. We often talk about supplement tolerance. Some people are are only willing to take four or five things on a given day and other people are perfectly willing to take much more than that.
It would be great if we could get everything we need nutrient wise, to not only survive but to thrive, from food. It was that way for man for a very long time. Unfortunately, we today, live in an environment where, I think it is virtually impossible to get everything you need to thrive just from your food. And there are a few reasons why. First of all you’ll notice I used the word thrive vs. survive.
I love this quote by Dr. Mark Hyman:
“In a perfect world, no one would need supplements but given the stress of our modern life, the poor quality of our food supply and the high load of toxins in our brains and bodies, most of us need a basic daily supply of the raw materials for all our our enzymes and biochemistry to run as designed. One of the largest drivers for supplementation in today’s modern age is our exposure to toxins and the likelihood of us struggling to keep up with that and therefore the possibility that we struggle with downstream inflammatory effects, either from continued exposure and/or stored toxins.” ~Dr. Mark Hyman MD
There is a certain bare minimum of nutrients needed in order to keep people from having deficiency type diseases. In fact, many people are surprised to learn that, for example, the U.S. Governments recommended daily allowance (RDA) of a nutrient is not even close to the optimal amount of a nutrient. It’s actually the bare minimum that you need to not get deficiency diseases for specific nutrients. So, for example, the RDA for Vitamin C is not what you need to have an optimal immune system and to not get sick and to thrive. It’s what you need to not get scurvy. Or the amount of Vitamin D that is recommended as the RDA is not what you need in order to help your body to avoid cancer, or to again, have a good, strong balanced immune system that helps you to avoid allergies and asthma and that kind of thing. The RDA is the amount of Vitamin D you need to not get rickets. Well most of us don’t want to just barely survive and avoid scurvy and rickets. Most of us want to thrive and the amount of nutrition needed to not only avoid those diseases but to feel well much less fantastic are usually substantially more than the RDA. On top of that, the amount of nutrients you need has to be balanced against how much nutrition is actually in your food. And unfortunately, as much as I wish it wasn’t the case, our food is getting less and less nutritious over time. Thanks to a number of different large scale not only domestic American but even international trends, our food has much less nutrition in it than it did in the past. And when I say in the past, I’m even meaning 75-100 years ago, much less 500 or 1000 years ago. Today, even if it’s organic food, very often it is produced in very large scale farms where there is not natural fertilizer or cover crops or animal grazing that would allow nutrients to be put back in the soil. And of course if there aren’t minerals in the soil there can’t be minerals in the food that was grown in that soil. In general, there is a global crisis with topsoil erosion which is where the real nutrient dense soil is found because of the decay of natural organic matter (bugs, insects, leaves), all sorts of organic breakdown that creates nutritional fodder for plants and animals to take that nutrition and deliver it to us via the food. Many of my clients are shocked to find out that a certain nutrient is less than half as prevalent in say an apple or stalk of broccoli than it was as recently as the 1970’s. So our food is not as nutritious as it used to be, not even close. You could pretty much count on animal foods to have good amounts of Omega 3 fats up until a hundred years ago but now because of the manner in which livestock is raised for food, it is highly unlikely, except for wild fish, that your food has substantial Omega 3’s in it. So, there’s nothing wrong with the food. It’s what we’ve done to the food in terms of modern scale and practice in agriculture.
The other key tenet that I think is important to understand is that today we live in an environment that has unprecedented levels of stress and toxins. I think you could easily argue that today the average Westerner adult encounters more toxicity through the air she inhales, through the water she swallows, through the food she chews and swallows, through the things that get rubbed on and absorbed in her skin; more toxicity probably in a given day than the average human adult encountered in a lifetime 100-200 years ago. We are asking our entire physiology to not only manage and process and excrete much higher levels of toxicity but when we don’t do that our bodies suffer dramatically from the inflammatory effects and the oxidative stress and damage effects of that toxicity downstream. That whole biochemical dynamic is why a number of my clients are working with me, in order to get to the bottom of that toxicity. Some of my clients have particular genetic variants, things you can’t really do anything about, that impair their bodies ability to conserve or use certain nutrients that impair various types of detoxification or impair various oxidative management pathways in the body. And so all of this contributes to my answer to the question of why do I need supplements. Because I want to help my clients thrive, not just to barely survive. My clients come to me in an effort to really feel fantastic, which is really what my goal is, to not just to help them get by but to help them to get truly well and stay well.
Do you use supplements? I would love for you to share your experience below!