4 Cornertones to Build a Supplement Program
Because of my autoimmune condition, I started to follow an anti-inflammatory diet. To fight lupus flares and symptoms, I found that the healthier I eat, the better I feel. That´s why I started studying nutrition last year. Today, I want to write about what I´ve learned about dietary supplement programs.
In the last few decades, more people than ever are taking nutritional supplements. The big reason is that they know they are not getting all they need from their diets, and they realize that supplements make them feel healthier. In the United States, comprehensive studies sponsored by the US government (e.g., NHANES I, II, III, and 2007–8; Ten State Nutrition Survey; USDA nationwide food consumption studies) have revealed marginal nutrient deficiencies exist in about 50% of the US population. More than 80% of the group consumes less than the recommended dietary intake (RDI) level for some selected nutrients in certain age groups.
These studies indicate that it is improbable that a “normal” diet will meet the recommended dietary intake for all nutrients. In other words, while it is theoretically possible that a healthy individual can get all the nutrition they need from foods, the fact is that most people do not even come close to meeting all their nutritional needs through diet alone.
In many instances, the only clue of a subclinical nutrient deficiency may be fatigue, lethargy, difficulty concentrating, a lack of well-being, or some other vague symptom. Worse, however, is that chronic, long-term marginal deficiencies are an underlying cause of most of the diseases we suffer in Western societies. Diagnosis of subclinical deficiencies is an arduous process that involves detailed dietary or laboratory analysis. It is not worth the cost of performing these tests because they are usually far more expensive than taking a year’s supply of the vitamin being tested for.
So, it is interesting to follow a dietary supplement program suited to almost everyone, based on:
- Taking a High-Quality Multiple Vitamin and Mineral Formula
Taking a high-quality multiple vitamin and mineral supplement providing all known vitamins and minerals is crucial to building a foundation. Dr. Roger Williams, one of the premier biochemists of the twentieth century, stated that healthy people should use multiple vitamin and mineral supplements as an “insurance formula” against possible deficiency. I agree.
Read labels carefully to find multiple vitamin/mineral formulas. Be aware that you will not find a formula that provides all of these nutrients at these levels in one single pill – it would simply be too big. You will usually need to take at least 2–6 tablets per day to meet these levels.
While many one-a-day supplements provide good levels of vitamins, they tend to provide insufficient amounts of some of the minerals. As a result, you may need to take a separate mineral formula or individual minerals (e.g., calcium, magnesium, iron, etc.) to meet those requirements. Remember that your body needs the minerals as much as the vitamins because the two nutrients work hand-in-hand.
- Taking Additional Vitamin D3
A vast and growing amount of research has shown that vitamin D deficiency is prevalent – at least 50% in the general population and 80% in infants – making it one of the most common medical conditions globally. Vitamin D deficiency plays a significant role in the development of many chronic degenerative diseases. Supplementation of vitamin D may be the most cost-effective strategy in improving health, reducing disease, and living longer.
Vitamin D is more of a prohormone than a vitamin. You produce vitamin D3 in your body by reacting a chemical in your skin in response to sunlight. Also, there are two primary forms of supplemental vitamin D: D3 (cholecalciferol) and D2 (ergocalciferol). Still, the last one is not naturally present in the human body and has actions within the body different from those of vitamin D3, so most experts prefer D3.
The ideal method for determining the optimal dosage requires a blood test for 25-hydroxyvitamin D3 (25(OH)D). Many health care practitioners are now routinely checking vitamin D status in their patients. Tests are also available direct-to-consumers, where you collect a small blood sample by skin prick and send it to the lab. 25(OH)D blood levels should be between 50–80 ng/mL (125–200 nmol/L) for optimum health.
- Taking a High-Quality Fish Oil Supplement
Why are the long-chain omega-3 fatty acids so essential? The answer has to do with the function of these fatty substances in cellular membranes and inflammation. A diet that is deficient in omega-3 fatty acids, particularly eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA), docosahexaenoic acid (DHA), and docosapentaenoic acid (DPA), results in altered cell membranes. Without a healthy membrane, cells lose their ability to hold water, vital nutrients, and electrolytes. They also lose their ability to communicate with other cells and be controlled by regulating hormones. They simply do not function properly. Cell membrane dysfunction is a critical factor in the development of virtually every chronic disease.
EPA, DHA, and DPA are also transformed into regulatory compounds known as prostaglandins, resolvins, protectins, and endocannabinoids, influencing many body processes. Taking supplemental levels of these omega-3 fatty acids can be helpful in re-establishing proper cellular function through these mediators.
When selecting a fish oil supplement, it is essential to choose a brand that you trust. Quality control is an absolute must to ensure the product is free of heavy metals like lead and mercury, pesticides, damaged fats (lipid peroxides), and other contaminants. Read the label carefully to ensure the product contains omega-3 fatty acids rather than fish oil.
- Taking Extra Plant-Based Antioxidants
Flavonoids are plant pigments that exert antioxidant activity. They are more potent and effective against a broader range of oxidants than the traditional antioxidant nutrients vitamins C and E, beta-carotene, selenium, and zinc. Besides lending color to fruits and flowers, flavonoids are responsible for many of the medicinal properties of foods, juices, herbs, and bee pollen.
One of the most beneficial groups of flavonoids is proanthocyanidins (also referred to as procyanidins or PACs). A great deal of clinical support shows supplementation with PACs such as grape seed or pine bark extract at dosages of 150–300 mg considerably improves the serum (blood) total antioxidant capacity as well as benefits in many health conditions including Asthma; Atherosclerosis, hypertension, metabolic syndrome, and type 2 diabetes; Attention Deficit Disorder; Male Infertility; Osteoarthritis; Periodontal disease; Varicose veins, venous insufficiency, and capillary fragility; Visual function, retinopathy, and macular degeneration.