The new year brings to light many changes for people, including the goal to become healthier. Because of this, I am often asked if taking vitamins and other supplements are necessary. The simple answer? Yes.
In a perfect world, our balanced diet would provide all the essential nutrients our bodies need, but the reality is that there is no perfect world. In order to keep our bodies functioning properly, we have to give it what it needs. Supplementation is necessary for many reasons:
Poor food quality
Simply put, our land is overfarmed, and the use of pesticides has skyrocketed. Even for those who continually eat a healthy, organic, non-GMO diet, the soil doesn't have the nutrients it once did—resulting in a loss of valuable vitamins and minerals. Keep in mind: Even enriched foods still don't have the necessary amount for optimal health.
Increase in food processing and use of additives
There are thousands of artificial colors, flavors, sweeteners and preservatives added to food. Common offenders are BHA, BHT, aspartame, nitrates/nitrites and benzoates. These are added to preserve food, but they take away the nutritional content.
Poor digestion and eating habits
We need to be able to digest the food we eat to absorb the nutrients. Sadly, all of us have some sort of digestive issue. Our body can't handle the high intake of poor-quality, processed food. For those with low digestive enzyme secretion, imbalanced intestinal bacteria or high yeast levels, there is an even greater chance for malabsorption.
Our stressful on-the-go daily routine actually requires more nutrients—specifically the B vitamins. Chronic stress also contributes to reduced digestive function.
There are times when we just naturally require extra supplementation. Aside from pregnancy, this would include vegetarians and those with food allergies. Those who take multiple medications may find their medication is depleting a specific nutrient.
At a minimum, everyone should take a basic multivitamin and mineral supplement. (Testing can be done to look for specific nutrient deficiencies, such as vitamin D.) Depending on patient goals and health condition, additional supplements are not uncommon.
The next question: How do you know what supplements to take?
Not all supplement products are created equal. Quality is up to the manufacturer, and because of the limited regulation, what you take might not be very effective. There are certain companies who adhere to Good Manufacturing Practices (GMP) and conduct third party testing on products. The use of unnecessary fillers, colors, sugars and allergens (dairy, gluten, corn, et cetera) in products isn't ideal—since, as stated above, the overabundance of these are the reason we require additional supplementation. We can't expect the consumer to research products, but it should be up to the store you are purchasing to know this information.
Are they offering you the best product?
Written by Brandi Grimmer, nutritional consultant, Keystone Nutrition. Brandi completed her certification as a Nutritional Consultant through Natural Healing College and graduated from Michigan State University with a Bachelor's degree in Human Biology. She is a Licensed Pharmacy Technician with over 10 years of experience. Brandi believes that total health is dependent on proper diet, exercise and nutritional supplementation.